CHICAGO—If business is a mindset, then supporting people in need is a matter of the heart.
Held in a different city each year, the AHR Expo (International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition) has a mission that is twofold: to highlight and celebrate innovation in the HVACR industry and to support a nonprofit in the locale where the event is hosted. The AHR Expo has more than 2,000 exhibitors and attracts 65,000-plus attendees each year.
“Every year, we hold the AHR Expo in a different city and are welcomed warmly by the community. We are pleased to be able to give something back through providing a donation to a local organization,” said Clay Stevens, president of International Exposition Company and manager of the AHR Expo. “We are thrilled to be able to donate the entry fees from our Innovation Awards competition to the Chicago Lighthouse, which provides invaluable services to so many members of the Chicago community.”
At the 2018 AHR Expo, to be held Jan. 22-24, The Chicago Lighthouse will receive a $20,700 donation. The organization serves more than 67,000 people each year in the Chicago metropolitan area through vision rehabilitation services, education, employment opportunities and assistive technology.
“An individual called us knowing that our Innovation Award Competition has a donation component, and they asked if they could be the beneficiary,” said Stevens. “We have certain guidelines; it has to be not-for-profit, make a service contribution to the community where the show is being held and has to be reputable. We needed to know their focus and be happy with it. Chicago Lighthouse met all the criteria. They fit what we were looking for.”
According to Stevens, the first competition was held in 2003 in Chicago. It began as a way to draw attention to what was primarily an HVACR equipment show, with a focus on new products, wanting to emphasize innovation occurring within the industry.
“We have judges, and winners are picked in each of the 10 categories. When that’s all done, we send the winning entries one more time and the judges pick the overall, most innovative product,” he said. “We want to encourage innovation. In our industry, companies are doing research and developing new product that benefits the population.”
While not a charity fundraiser, Stevens noted that it was important for organizers of the AHR Expo to give back to the local community by using the entry fees to the competition. Instead of giving a small sum for administrative fees, AHR Expo gives 100% of the funds to the selected nonprofit.
“We didn’t want to make this a profit center for us; that was where the idea came from. We hold the show in Chicago, it’s successful here and a really nice thing to give back some benefit where we hold the show. The amount does vary one year to the next, but whatever we get, we give,” he said. “Because the show is about HVAC ventilation, we encourage the recipient of our gift to use it for a project that will benefit the people they serve [in a way that’s]related to our industry, such as a heating or air-conditioning project. In the past, we have replaced ventilation fans. It’s not anything magical, but we thought it would be appropriate if a gift from our industry was used to upgrade or replace something they have.”
The Chicago Lighthouse will receive its donation next month, according to Stevens. There are some early discussions about upgrading the heating and air-conditioning system in the administrative building.
“While the nature of our business is usually for profit, it’s nice for us to do more than that; everyone here is totally in favor of giving,” he said. “We’re not a huge company, but we’re very much in favor and talking about expanding this donation to include opportunities for exhibitors to give equipment. We haven’t started, but we’re discussing it.”