Todd Jameson knows how to get Hoosiers off the sofa. Up until two years ago, he was producer of the Indiana Flower and Patio Show and the Christmas Gift and Hobby Show-two of the most popular annual events in Indianapolis.
But a dollar to a cholesterol-laden doughnut says his next gig will be his most difficult: getting some of the nation's heaviest, most cigarette-addicted people off the couch and to the firstever Natural Living Expo, next January.
Jameson figures the winning strategy will be to pack this latest show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds with enough variety to broaden its appeal beyond the relatively small group of die-hards interested in complementary and alternative health and organic and natural foods.
He's working to attract the "sustainability" crowd, as well. He's lining up environmentally friendly transportation exhibitors, recycling interests and even Earth-friendly housing vendors.
Jameson is modeling some aspects of the expo after that put on by a West Coast colleague-the Good Earth show. But he's trying to avoid that show's heavy emphasis on home products.
He thinks Indianapolis, though lagging behind trends on the East and West coasts, may have reached critical mass when it comes to interest in all things healthy and green.
The demand here will be borne out by attendance. He expects only about 15,000 to 18,000 at this first show. "It's a small crowd in terms of some of the major events in Indianapolis."
But many will be "qualified" shoppers-those who support the movement, he figures.
They'll be believers like Dale Guyer, an Indianapolis family physician and director of the Guyer Institute of Molecular Medicine.
Guyer also focuses on preventive medicine, including the use of natural substances and hormone replacement therapy.
"Indianapolis is long overdue for something like this," Guyer said.
He said many of his patients see a connection between taking care of one's body and the Earth, so he applauds Jameson's strategy.
"These days people are very concerned about their personal health, the state of the environment and simply living a better life," Jameson said.
He expects about 150 vendors, although he isn't yet ready to say who's signed up. His firm-named after the show-is charging $795 for booth space. He hopes for a big contingent of Indiana exhibitors.
"There really is a grass-roots effort here to make significant changes," Jameson said.
He pointed to the new Symphony Motors as an example. The firm launched by banker Steve Tolen, founder of Carmel-based Symphony Bank, wants to make battery-powered cars capable of traveling at least 100 miles between charges.
One Indiana firm already in production, Jameson noted, is SunRise Solar Inc., which makes solarpowered attic fans at a factory in Warsaw.
Bill Keith, whose family owns a roofing firm, founded SunRise Solar five years ago. The narrow-hipped Keith was the one lowered into the hole in the roof to hook up conventional attic fans to a house's wiring. After being shocked repeatedly, by brothers who thought it was funny to turn the breaker on before he finished, Keith invented a solar-powered fan.
"We're going to cross $1 million in revenue for the first time," said Keith, whose factory is struggling to keep up with demand. SunRise Solar sold 50 units to Honolulu International Airport, for the terminal roof. He has European vendors wanting units to sell in Spain and Portugal. "It's been going crazy.... We've run out of goods three times this year already."
Jameson said these kinds of companies could sprout all over Indiana, in old rustbelt factories long shuttered. "We need to embrace these changes and not be afraid of them."
In case you're wondering-Jameson is a believer in things natural. While growing up in Monmouth County, N.J., he and his brother grew organic vegetables and sold them at the New York City Greenmarket, in the late-1970s.
Until a few years ago, Jameson was president of Indianapolis-based HSI Show Productions, which had handled the flower and patio show. He also recently completed a term as president of the National Association of Consumer Shows, a Portland, Ore.-based trade group.