The first International Tile Exposition in Anaheim, Calif., in 1990 marked the beginning of the coming together of the players in the domestic and foreign tile industries. Over the years it has successfully weathered a shaky and contentious start to set new records of tile and stone usage in the United States, far beyond anyone’s expectations.
In the early years there existed an environment of tense and strained negotiations and meetings among the players – National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), Tile Council of North America (TCNA), Italian and Spanish tile manufacturer associations – compounded by language and cultural differences that made it difficult at times to fully and clearly understand exactly what each of the joint venture partners needed or expected. The challenge was how to slice the pie so that each partner could exist and financially continue its programs and activities to grow the industry. Ultimately people got to know each other, friends were made, trust was gained and the mere logic that everyone had to work together to reach goals was realized. Technology improved communications and language barriers lessened.
Coverings history-the early years
From the rain-flooded tents of the first International Tile Exposition (ITE) to the present time, the evolution of the show has been quite an accomplishment. Early on, NTCA provided tile setting contests on the show floor to appeal to contractor attendance. It had a good foundation to do so – its annual Convention and Exposition was the largest available to the tile, stone and allied products industries, including an international audience – for 39 years prior to the mergers that heralded the existence of Coverings.
Negotiations with CTDA, beginning in 1986, resulted in a merger known as “Tile Expo.” The Association of Tile, Terrazzo, Marble Contractors and Affiliates (ATTMCA) – as NTCA was then known – insisted on the inclusion of Tile Council of America (TCA) in the negotiations and they became an owner of Tile Expo when the new entity was formed.
The first Tile Expo was held in November 1987 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. ATTMCA already had planned, confirmed and scheduled a show at the Peabody Hotel in Orlando in April 1987 – attendance at both shows was exceptional. Two additional Tile Expos were held, one in 1988 in San Francisco and one in 1989 in Dallas.
Discussions with the Europeans for a possible merger of Tile Expo with World Exposition of Ceramic Tile and Bathroom Furnishings began in November 1987 in Orlando. The first full meeting was held at Assopiastrelle (the Italian tile manufacturers’ association) in Italy, on July 1, 1988.
“I attended that meeting with David Knox, president of CTDA,” said Joe Tarver, executive director emeritus of NTCA, who was secretariat to the joint venture for five years as well as chairman in 1992 and 2000. “After a contentious beginning, enough progress was made for a second meeting at Tile Expo in July 1988. A third meeting in New York, September 26-27, 1988 resulted in a signed contract.”
The fourth and final meeting of the principals of the industry’s five major trade associations, Assopiastrelle, ASCER (Association of Tile Manufacturers of Spain), NTCA, CTDA and TCA, was held in Atlanta on August 1, 1989, and the agreement signed in New York was ratified.
The first International Tile Exposition was held June 7-9,1990 in Anaheim, but because the convention center was not completed on time, show management had to erect huge tents to accommodate the overwhelming numbers of exhibitors. Unseasonable rain flooded the tents and made conditions generally miserable for exhibitors and attendees, yet the show was considered a huge success.
The annual meetings continued under the name of International Tile Exposition until 1993. Subsequent meetings were called International Tile And Stone Expositions (ITSE) until 1997 when the current name of Coverings was adopted.
Because of cultural differences and tile and stone installation differences in Europe (there were virtually no contractors there) and the United States, our contractor association was hardly recognized as an entity and held in low esteem during the early negotiations.
“Through the ATTMCA’s negotiating skills and persistent interjection of the importance of tile contractors to the U.S tile industry, we persevered and convinced our European partners that we belonged at the table and would play a major role in the success of our joint venture,” Tarver said. “The importance of our association and its contributions to the success of Coverings is readily recognized and acknowledged among all of the partners today. I’m proud to count a great number of people from Italy, Spain and other European countries among my good friends.”
Now celebrating its 25th year, Coverings continues to be the driving force for tile and stone sales in North America. Perhaps equally as important have been the free educational programs offered at the show since its inception. This remains a core strategy for the Coverings Board of Directors, and has positively impacted the industry in many ways.
Bart Bettiga has been the executive director of the NTCA since 2002, and has served as show chairman in 2005 and 2010. He cites increased activity on the show floor as one of the most positive developments in recent years to the show.
“We followed up the early tile-setting contests with an installation stage, with TCNA (formerly TCA) members and NTCA trainers educating attendees on the latest products and installation techniques. Following on that line, we developed new programs like the Installation Design Showcase and Contractor Days to offer more show-floor excitement. I truly believe these programs have been instrumental in creating a more valuable experience, resulting in repeat attendance to the show.”