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More than 22,000 registrants & 971 companies attended WEFTEC in Chicago
A record number of 22,589 registrants and 971 companies using 297,400 net sq ft of exhibit space made WEFTEC 2013—the Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) 86th Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference—as the largest in the organization’s 86-year history.
The last time WEFTEC was held in Chicago was in 2008—an event that set the previous record of 21,950 registrants.
“WEFTEC has evolved over the past 86 years, but it continues to demonstrate WEF’s unfailing commitment to serving the needs of the water profession,” said WEF Interim Executive Director Eileen O’Neill. “The event is carefully designed to offer a personal experience that can be customized for individual professional growth, which ultimately supports and contributes to the overall success of the entire water sector.”
Reinforcing this concept was the Opening General Session (OGS), which officially kicked off the show on Monday, Oct. 7. Built around a central theme of harnessing personal passion to better serve the profession, the program featured a special welcome from Pat Quinn, Governor of Illinois, followed by complementary and inspiring remarks from the 2012-2013 WEF President Cordell Samuels and best-selling author and self-proclaimed “agent for social change” Kevin Carroll.
Carroll’s motivational keynote address set the stage for “reigniting the spark of creativity” by challenging attendees to tap into their sense of childhood play as a means of better problem-solving and achieving more success in everyday work. “[The water sector] is about innovation, creativity, problem-solving, and ingenuity,” offered Carroll. “Coming up with great ideas when others don’t anticipate them. The unexpected is what you live by, is what you thrive for…that’s the opportunity for play.”
Later that morning, conference attendees were further encouraged to adopt a personal approach to water management by transitioning from abstract engineered solutions to direct communication and collaboration with their customers and local officials. The special Water Leaders Session: “The Future of Cities and Water: Insights from Great Water Cities” opened with an enthusiastic welcome from the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, who thanked the attendees for their dedication and announced a 50-year, $50 million “greener, cleaner” initiative that will improve floodwater management in Chicago.
His remarks were followed by a panel discussion of national and international senior water executives who all emphasized the vital importance of reaching out and listening to their communities as well as seeking out collaborative opportunities and learning about continuous innovations in sustainable water management.
WEFTEC also served as a venue for a special announcement from environmental advocate Robert Kennedy, Jr. and David St. Pierre, executive director of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, on Tuesday morning. Stressing the importance of environmental stewardship, they shared details about the planned launch of what they said would be the largest nutrient recovery project in the world. The announcement was made in the conference’s Global Center, which served as a central hub for international business opportunities among 86 countries.
Later on Tuesday, President Samuels ceremoniously “passed the gavel” of WEF leadership to incoming President Sandra Ralston and inducted the 2013-2014 WEF Board of Trustees. The ceremony culminated with awards presentations in recognition of the achievements of talented and dedicated professionals in the water quality community.
Other notable highlights included the popular Innovation Showcase; the first-ever and well-attended Stormwater Congress; the “Reading, Writing and Rain Gardens” community service project where conference volunteers replaced concrete with green infrastructure on the playground at John C. Haines Elementary in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood—OGS keynote Kevin Carroll kindly supported WEF’s efforts to leave a positive imprint on the host city by making a special donation of playground balls to the school; the 2013 WEF Student Design Competition; the AEESP/WEF Scientists’ Lecture and Luncheon; and the 2013 Operations Challenge Competition, which was won for the fourth consecutive year by defending champions Terminal Velocity from the Virginia Water Environment Assn.