Between 22-25 May, the UK civil engineering and pipelines world revolved around Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre. If you weren't at Civils and Pipelines 2000, you should have been.
Not that the aisles of the NEC's Halls 8 and 9 were sparsely populated, just the opposite. Just over 6,000 people attended the launch of Civil and Pipelines in 1998. Two years later the numbers had tripled to nearly 20,000.
One key factor was the proximity of Interbuild's structural building show, and huge numbers of visitors poured through the link from Hall 5. As a result five times as many estimators and buyers visited this year's show compared to the 1998 event. The number of project managers tripled and twice as many construction managers made the trip.
But there was also a big increase in 'engineers' visiting the show, up by 55%.
The huge rise in visitors produced one unexpected bonus for the exhibiting firms. With a skills shortage gripping the industry (NCE 8 June), exhibitors like Parsons Brinckerhoff and Maunsell were able to grab some tasty new talent from the aisles.
Those looking for complete change of direction might have been inspired to take the King's Shilling by the Royal Engineers' mobile bridge building demonstration.
Fresh from their triumphs in Kosovo, the REs turned up with their General Support Bridge which can produce a 35m crossing at a metaphorical drop of the hat.
When the REs arrived outside Hall 9 on Monday, their best time to construct the bridge - which is strong enough to carry a 70t tank - was 24 minutes. Twice-daily attempts on the record soon whipped the boys from 38 Regiment into fine form, and on Wednesday they turned in an astonishing time of just 14 minutes.
The REs speed off the mark was good news for the exhibitors as visitors flooded back into the halls and began to spend.
Speaking to the Civils and Pipelines Show Guide on the Wednesday, Jim Durrell from Pipeline Consultants said: 'We are getting enquiries which may lead to multimillion pound contracts.' Tony Lucas from Poletech enthused: 'We have taken some substantial orders.'
But it wasn't all about getting people to sign on the dotted line.
The show also proved to be a good place to network.
'I'm cementing contacts with major clients like BAA, Arup and Atkins and making new ones with smaller companies, ' said Lee Brankley from UK Cares.
Martin Robbins from TAM added: 'The overseas contacts had been a surprising bonus with potential customers visiting us from Egypt, Turkey, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Malaysia.'
Perhaps the last word should be left to Mark Bowman from S&B Site Enclosures who was exhibiting in another part of Interbuild. 'I wish I'd had a stand in Civils and Pipelines, ' he sighed wistfully. Well, there's always 2002.
What the exhibitors thought
'We're pleased we went, it was an excellent show. The interest was wider than just heavy building materials. We had many enquiries about the environmental aspects of Lafarge. The show gives civil engineering a good identity by being held alongside Interbuild.' Andi Hodgson, Lafarge
'The quality of visitors was far better than in 98. We had interest from far afield, including Nairobi and Romania. We had lots of existing customers coming to the stand as well as new. There was a great deal of interest in new products such as the site development packages, from local authorities, consultants and contractors - and there is much business in the pipeline.' Lionel Gilbert, Infrasoft
'Pipelines went very well for us, far better than in 1998. We benefited from the new format, as we had customers in Interbuild's Tools and Total Lighting shows. The layout of the exhibition drove customers onto our stand and we were able to generate tremendous interest in our cable and pipe locating equipment.' Roger Willmott, Boddingtons