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January 18, 2010: A singular-focused trade show

January 18, 2010
Filed under Features

Ten years later, Jim Betlach’s idea is still proving a worthy one.
Betlach, an industry veteran and former Drag Specialties official, believed the industry back in the late 1990s deserved an event that had a singular V-twin focus.
He, of course, wasn’t alone. Today, Betlach is the producer of a V-twin aftermarket show that is reaching its 10th anniversary. Despite the economic challenges, the show will continue to bring together more than 300 V-twin-focused companies in Cincinnati from Feb. 6-8.
Betlach, in an interview with Powersports Business, recounted discussions he had at other industry trade shows that led to the creation of the V-Twin Expo.
“The Harley-Davidson aftermarket wanted a show directed at that segment of the market,” he said.
That is certainly the case at the red-carpeted V-Twin Expo, which in recent years has had its own transformation. Three years ago, the show was not only a Harley aftermarket show, but a reflection of a growing custom V-twin business. Many of the expo’s biggest displays featured a number of small manufacturers that were building radically designed choppers and later, pro-street offerings.
That has since changed, as the custom market declined considerably during the past few years. Betlach compared the public’s fascination with choppers to another recent fad. “Tattoos have been around forever,” he said, “but in the last few years they’ve really gone to extremes. Choppers did the same thing.”
What remains consistent at the V-Twin Expo is its educational component. The event will continue to offer seminars geared for both dealers and manufacturers. The 2010 seminar schedule will include a number of time-sensitive topics, including on the growing preowned motorcycle business and a look at how to more successfully cater to the women’s market.
Will the show that has been in Cincinnati throughout its 10-year history remain in Ohio at the same time of year for the foreseeable future? Betlach believes so, noting several advantages with the current location. That includes its centralized spot in the United States — “you would be amazed at how many dealers are within 500 miles of Cincinnati” — and the fact that Cincinnati, in comparison with Las Vegas or Orlando, Fla., has few distractions for the dealership staff. “When you go to the show, you go to the show,” he said. “It’s like an absolute networking bonanza.”
It also remains a much larger event than when it started 10 years ago. At the time, Betlach attended an industry show in Laughlin, Nev., to discuss his idea of a V-twin-specific aftermarket show. An idea that proved anything but a hard sell.
“After half a day, people were coming and finding me at the show,” he said. “When I left Laughlin, I had a show. It was that simple.”
— Neil Pascale

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