By Brian Swartz

Weekly Staff Editor

For people employed in the forest products sector in New England and adjacent Canadian provinces, attending the Northeastern Forest Products Equipment Expo in Bangor represents an opportunity to check out the latest equipment and technology related to their industry.

But there’s more to the so-called “Loggers’ Expo,” according to Joe Phaneuf, executive director of the expo-organizing Northeastern Loggers’ Association.

“The expo has always served not only as a marketplace for forest products equipment, supplies, and services, but as a place where hardworking industry people gather to visit with one another,” Phaneuf said.

“Most of the people in this industry are pretty isolated when they’re working, so it’s a welcome time for them to be able to spend some time with others who have the same values, challenges, and outlook as them,” he said. “This is one of the reasons our promotional message this year was to ‘Shake Hands with Your Industry.’”

The 2013 expo will take place 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, May 17, and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, May 18. For loggers, the expo will begin with the annual Loggers’ Banquet at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer.

“The banquet features our annual awards program and after-dinner entertainment from Maine’s own Gary Crocker,” Phaneuf said. “A limited number of tickets are available at the door.

“Three great seminars” will be offered to loggers and other forest products professionals, he said. At 9 a.m. May 17, NELA will sponsor a seminar titled “Get-R-Done: Making or Updating a Business Plan and Path Forward for Your Business.”

At 1 p.m. May 17, loggers will learn “What’s New in Forestry Operations,” to be presented by University of Maine representatives.

At 9:30 a.m. May 18, “we’re offering the seminar ‘How Loggers Can Become Invincible to Lawsuits and Save Thousands in Taxes,’” Phaneuf said. He asked loggers interested in any particular seminar to “check with the people at [the expo’s] registration for the location.”

Visitors to the Loggers’ Expo will be pleased to learn that “the popular Prentice Log Loading championship will take place again this year,” Phaneuf said. “It runs all day on Friday and on Saturday morning, with the finals taking place on Saturday afternoon.

“The winner at the Bangor Expo will go on to the national competition,” he said.

For many visitors, the equipment displays will be the main attraction. Via their North American representatives, companies from across the world will display logging-related equipment at Bass Park and will send experienced representatives to talk about the nuts and bolts and computers and software and everything else found in the equipment.

Many exhibitors will set up displays inside the Bangor Auditorium and Bangor Civic Center during the two-day expo. As with so many other events taking place at Bass Park since last fall, May 17-18 will mark the last time that the Loggers’ Expo uses the auditorium and civic center.

According to Phaneuf, NELA first scheduled a Loggers’ Expo at Bass Park in May 1983. “Bangor is the perfect place for this exposition,” he said. “It’s a town that has always welcomed the forest products industry; you have a statue of Paul Bunyan in front of the facility!”

Accessible by Interstates 95 and 395, plus several federal and state highways, Bangor “is within a manageable drive of an enormous number of logging sites and processing facilities,” Phaneuf said. “The industry is still going strong in Maine, and as long as it is, we’ll be here.”

After the initial 1983 Loggers’ Expo, NELA rotated the event every third year through Bangor. “Eventually we settled on a two-year rotation between Bangor and Essex Junction” in Vermont, Phaneuf said.

Planning for the 2013 expo began about a year ago. More than 200 companies will participate in the expo; NELA encountered little difficulty in filling just about every available square foot of space.

“Our outside space is completely sold out to manufacturers and distributors of logging equipment, firewood processors, portable sawmills, home heating equipment, grinders and chippers, trucks and trailers — just about anything you can imagine,” Phaneuf reported.

“Our inside space also features equipment and supplies targeted to the industry and the home heating enthusiast,” he said.

“Our biggest and most important exhibitors are pretty local and are bringing their display equipment just a few miles, though some will bring lots of equipment hundreds of miles at great expense,” Phaneuf pointed out.

“We do have a good number of exhibitors from out of state and from Canada, as well,” he said. “I think the exhibitor who’s come the furthest to this show is a portable sawmill manufacturer from Australia.”

Looking forward to 2015, Phaneuf believes that expo planning “may need to start a little earlier, as we hope to be moving into Bangor’s exciting new facility, the Cross Insurance Center.

“Let me express our sincere appreciation and affection for the Bass Park complex,” he said. “It is and was a very useful facility that fit our show very, very well. It was extremely well run, and I think it represented the people in this area very well. We’ll miss it — and we hope that the new facility fits us at least half as well as the old Bass Park.”