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Bob Kay is the V-Twin Director of AIMExpo/MIC Events. He’s been involved in the motorcycle industry for more than 40 years. Bob says that shops should encourage customers to take part in the adventure of touring no matter what they may ride.

My first motorcycle industry trade show experience was in February 1979 at the Dealer Expo in Cincinnati, Ohio. Most of you have heard the story how I headed out to Cincy with a 10’x10’ display full of nothing but bungee cords. The Cincinnati Dealer Expo was the show back then! I was thrilled to be there, I worked my butt off, and most importantly, I began relationships with other motorcycle industry aficionados that I still hold valuable today. You see, while the purpose of attending a particular trade show may change, the one constant value is the unique networking opportunities that can only flourish in an all-encompassing trade show environment. We are so fortunate to have an industry trade organization, the Motorcycle Industry Council, which understands this concept so completely they acquired AIMExpo to ensure all the generated benefits were reinvested into our industry. The value of a single platform for dealers, media, manufacturing and OEM players to share their vision is immeasurable.

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I grew from representing a small general distributor to a national company selling aftermarket parts for Harley-Davidson motorcycles and later a custom motorcycle vehicle manufacturer. And so grew the size of the booth I worked out of and the logistics to get it there. It was never easy but always worth it. What I learned and who I learned it from helped me advance my career faster and broader than would have ever been possible if I stayed in my own little corner of the world. Many of my heroes have passed, but I am still thankful today for the doors they opened for me and I am hopeful I can do the same for the new breed of young entrepreneurs entering our industry today. The opportunity to cash in on good deals is still valuable today but specials, specifications, attributes and pricing can be communicated faster and more efficiently with modern technology than in the days of fax machines and snail mailers.

Brad Gregory, a young buddy of mine, just recently Instagrammed his unforgettable experience of learning about a six-into-four tranny from the master himself, Bert Baker. That just doesn’t happen on any type of social media. Our young Millennials have social media dialed in but they are begging for real experiences, personal experiences and ones that affect you for a lifetime. I am here to tell you that is why AIMExpo presented by Nationwide is so important to the future of the motorcycle industry. It is the one platform where we can all get together, learn and benefit from the real, unforgettable interaction of each other.

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The other beauty of AIMExpo is that it’s America’s motorcycle industry show, a place to discuss business. The biggest challenge facing our business is finding the next generations of new riders. The CEOs of America’s most iconic manufacturers – Harley-Davidson and Indian/Polaris – will offer keynote addresses speaking to that challenge, and the Motorcycle Industry Council will reveal an initiative being created to inspire and instill the emotion of “the first ride” for non-riders. With more than 25 OEMs exhibiting this year, the overall impact will be more dealers converging on Columbus, talking about the future. If you think trade shows are “passé,” “boring,” “not pertinent” or whatever adjective you prefer, get your butt to Columbus this year and be part of the conversation and become part of the solution.

Over the years, I have attended OEM-sponsored dealer shows, distributor trade days and exclusive importer/distributor trade shows, along with multiple specialty segment trade shows, but now is the time to all come together as one. To quote Larry Little, MIC Events VP and general manager, “Plotting the path ahead and addressing the real challenges of our collective business starts with coming together. There will not be a better opportunity for the industry to meet face-to-face and discuss these issues than AIMExpo presented by Nationwide this September in Columbus.” I am so excited to be part of AIMExpo this year! I hope you’re reading this before the show… if not, I hope I saw you there!

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