CRA Executive Director Dale Blackwell Talks About the Growth of the Industry's Biggest Regional Tradeshow

California Rental Association Dale Blackwell talks about the 53rd Rental Rally Tradeshow and what's behind its growth.

Dale Blackwell, executive director of the California Rental Association
Dale Blackwell, executive director of the California Rental Association

The California Rental Association recently held its 53rd annual Rental Rally Tradeshow in Las Vegas, enjoying significant growth over last year's show. To find out what's behind the growth and where the organization is headed, we sat down with CRA Executive Director Dale Blackwell. 

Rental: How much growth did the CRA see this year compared to last year? 

Blackwell: Last year we had 187 booths at the show and this year we grew to 309, including party booths growing from 12 to 44. That's nearly double the size. Attendees represented 18 different states from three countries, including Mexico and Australia. Our attendees went from 303 in 2015 to 412 this year.

Rental: What contributed to the success of this year’s show?

Blackwell: Several things. We've seen continued growth in the economy out west combined with continually increasing rental revenues. Our alliance with the Mid-Atlantic Tent Renters Association (MATRA), with its ability to bring the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) onboard for a tenting seminar, helped a lot, as did participation from the Scaffold Access & Industry Association (SAIA). Our cooperation with and support from the Northwest Rental Conference group contributed to the success of this year's CRA, and as always, a lot of it comes down to location, location, location. Las Vegas continues to be a desirable destination for our attendees.

Rental: How did the California Rental Association get started?

Blackwell: The California Rental Association has formed in 1946 as the California Trailer and Rental Yard Association (CTRYA) by 11 of the "trailer guys" who saw the need for an organization to protect and develop California's young rental industry. Several years later the Northern Equipment Rental Association joined the CTRYA. CTRYA officially became the California Rental Association in 1961.

As the rental industry grew, so did CRA. To keep up with the growing needs of rental businesses, CRA successfully implemented several group member insurance plans; a scholarship foundation was developed to provide funds for rental industry-related education; a political action committee was created to protect the industry's legislative interests; and Western Rental Sales was formed to develop discount buying programs for rental businesses. The first CRA convention held in 1963 in Long Beach, CA, provided members the opportunity to market their products, network and attend educational seminars.

The CRA's focus has always been to give back to the industry by having outstanding partnerships with vendors, offering many networking opportunities, and keeping shows and meetings affordable for both vendors and attendees.

Rental: What is your history in the rental industry?

Blackwell: My father started our rental business, Aba Daba Rents, in 1960 when I was 5 years old. He joined the CRA immediately in 1960 as the business was growing. It gave him the ability to learn from his peers and partner with manufacturers. I began working at a very young age helping my father. At 18, I left college and began managing one of our six stores. I was asked to serve on a local territory helping put on meetings. Several years later I was asked to join the CRA Insurance Committee. In 1986, I was asked to run for the board of directors. I worked my way up through all of the officer positions, taking over the position of executive director from Chuck Maltese in 2006. This July, it will be 10 years that I have been managing the CRA with my own staff at Aba Daba Rents.

Rental: Do you see growth of the CRA show continuing? At what pace?

Blackwell: As for next year, there continues to be interest in our tradeshow. We are anticipating continued growth, thanks to increased revenues for our member companies, and also due to continued interest among attendees in coming to Las Vegas. Rental companies, both party and event businesses and equipment-focused businesses, are all looking for new niches.

Rental: What is your plan going forward?

Blackwell: The CRA show will be in Las Vegas 2017, 2018 and 2020, with no show planned for 2019. Our board of directors has voted to support the American Rental Association when it holds The Rental Show in Anaheim in 2019, by not having our show in Las Vegas that year. The CRA does not want to compete with the ARA by holding another western show so close to the ARA's show. 

Rental: How do you plan to foster continued growth?

Blackwell: As always, we continue to focus on partnering with our vendors in the West. We'll continue to listen to our members and associate members and offer services and products to help small businesses survive.

Rental: What are you most proud of during your time with the CRA?

Blackwell: In July I will have been executive director of the CRA for 10 years and a board member for 19 1/2. I am most proud that the association has been able to survive and prosper in a difficult economic time, while continuing to address its members needs. We are witnessing a rebirth of the industry and a continued willingness to share ideas.

Rental: Why do you suppose that is?

Blackwell: Networking with peers seems to be making a comeback in our industry. People in the rental industry are asking questions and listening to reps and manufacturers when deciding on new procedures and equipment needs. 

The CRA 2017 Rental Rally Tradeshow will be held Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2017 at the Southpoint Casino Hotel in Las Vegas. For more information, visit