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TAMPA, FLA. — After a year of declining attendance at defense industry conferences and a spate of canceled industry events this past spring, the jam-packed Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) here this week feels like a throwback to presequestration times.
The Association of the US Army Winter event in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in February offers a good example. The Army had reduced its presence to about 50 soldiers this year, down from about 500 in 2012, and the floor space had been reduced dramatically.
In contrast, the SOFIC event hosted by the National Defense Industry Association boasted 7,000 attendees, with 336 companies having purchased floor space. One person familiar with the workings of the show said there were actually a few hundred companies that wanted to show their wares but were put on a waiting list because the Tampa Convention Center didn’t have enough space to hold them all.
The floor space sold out in one day when it was opened up last summer.
In order to get around the lack of space, a few contractors like Saab rented out space at hotels across the street from the convention center, where they held court and put on demos of their gear.