CHICAGO -- Improvement for U.S. contract furnishings production and sales were projected for this year and next at the annual BIFMA institutional furnishings manufacturers gathering, held during NeoCon last week. U.S. office furniture production will rise to $8.27 billion in 2011, up 11.1% following a projected 5.1% decline to $7.45 billion this year - but the decline is relatively good news following the 29% drop recorded in 2009.

BIFMA's annual business gathering in Chicago was held during a successful NeoCon 2010, with attendance pegged at 40,000. NeoCon identifies trends for contract furnishing manufacturing and purchasing for the next year.

Outgoing BIFMA board president Rebecca Boenigk told the group that BIFMA's level standard, which was launched at NeoCon 2009, has gained traction quickly in the market and around the world. "We weren't sure how fast BIFMA would take off," said Boenigk. "But there are some huge bids developing for the Federal government that specify Level.”

Environmental expert Paul Shariari, who has been conducting level training in roadshows for BIFMA, explained how level rationalized the proliferation of green and sustainable designations that have been adopted by institutional furnishings manufactures. “level can house all these concepts and standards,” he said. “With level we can give buyers a visual cue that is easy to understand.”

Chris Kennedy, president of Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. (a long-term holding of the Kennedy clan) which stages the annual event, said the 42nd annual NeoCon, encompassed 125 showrooms and with 512 exhibitors participating, occupying 1 million square feet. (More than 200,000 mailers, 2 million e-mails and 200,000 unique website visitors helped market the show.)

Logistics of NeoCon required 87 dockworkers and construction by 46 carpenters - a fact that gave a nice push to some custom woodworking business in the Chicago area.

Read coverage of woodworking and wood manufacturing trends seen at NeoCon 2010. >>

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