Now is the time to be planning your trip to the 2003 Remodelers' Show, which is coming up next month at the Baltimore Convention Center. If you've been putting off the decision, there's still time to register (but hurry -- the early-bird discount ends Sept. 22). If you've never attended and have decided not to again this year, I really think you should reconsider. The Remodelers' Show is one of the best things that ever happened to our industry.

I'm not just saying that because my employer, Hanley-Wood LLC, owns the Show. I attended the first Remodelers' Show back in 1991, long before I worked for the company that owns it. It was a good show then, and it's grown into a great show in the dozen years since. The Show fills the same need today that it filled back then: the need for reliable first-hand information about the products, processes, and people that make for successful remodeling businesses.

Products. I already get a lot of product information, you complain, so what is the attraction of an exhibition floor full of more products. One answer is that it's easy to make side-by-side comparisons, because in any given product category, most major manufacturers -- and usually several minor ones -- are on the floor. Not only can you put your hands on the tools and materials, you can carry on a face-to-face conversation with a manufacturer rep. Who would you rather have answer your question -- the kid behind the counter at your lumberyard or the engineer who designed the thing? Remember also that a lot of companies roll out new products at the Show, plus there are all kinds of special one-time offers for show attendees.

Processes. The Show covers both the technical side and the business side, so there's something for everybody in your company. The exhibit floor is home to workshops where you can see veteran remodelers demonstrating best practices and installation short cuts with traditional materials and cutting edge technologies alike.

The conference addresses some production issues, too, but the emphasis there is on the business side. If you like the kind of information we bring you each month in Remodeling, think of the Show as the live version. And when the speaker glosses over your pet peeve -- or if you think he's just plain wrong -- the Show is the place to argue the thing out, in person.

People. This is the heart of it. Remodeling can be a lonely business, but it doesn't have to be that way. And you don't have to reinvent the wheel every time a new problem arises. I can guarantee that among the thousands of attendees at the Remodelers' Show, someone has faced that same problem and figured out a solution. Some solutions come from speakers, but you'll also find answers from remodelers you meet in the hallways, on the exhibit floor, in the restaurants, and at the hotel. Some you may not see again until next year's Show; others will become good friends you'll contact regularly throughout the year. But everyone you meet is in the same boat you are. If you take away just one thing from the Show experience, it's that you don't have to face the challenges of a very challenging business alone.

Most of the remodelers standing in front of the classes making presentations are just like you, except for one small difference: they used to be in the audience. Isn't it time you were, too?

Sal Alfano, Editor-in-Chief