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Magna-Power’s Ira Pitel Looks Forward to Being Back as an APEC Exhibitor

By Teddy Durgin

Since 1981, Ira J. Pitel has served as President of Magna-Power Electronics, a leader in industrial high-power, programmable DC power supplies. He has many years in the industry, which also means he's had many years as an Applied Power Electronics Conference (APEC) exhibitor. "I was at an introductory meeting when they were trying to get APEC off the ground!" he proudly recalled in a recent interview.

As such, he has certainly seen APEC grow and evolve over the years. What's been the biggest change? "Oh, the growth!" he exclaimed without hesitation. "One of the issues facing APEC is that it's getting very big. The first one I went to had maybe a couple hundred people – and the most recent had something like 4,000 or 5,000! That's how much larger it's gotten over the years, and I think it will continue to grow.

So, why do he and his colleagues continue to attend and exhibit year after year? "The exhibition is probably the best in the country for power electronics," he declared. "We have a global sales force, so we do booths and exhibits around the world, but APEC is the best. Probably about five years ago now, it really took off. I think I get the most enjoyment out of the exhibition. We go there and have a good collection of industrial customers, and we also sell to a lot of universities. I love talking to my industrial colleagues, but we love seeing our university customers there, too."

Pitel said he started going regularly about a decade ago. And in recent years, it's actually become a bit of a family affair for him. "I have two sons in the business," he proudly declared. "One is involved more in the business end. Adam does sales, is a VP of Operations, and has a Master's from Princeton University in Electrical Engineering. He also currently serves as APEC’s social media chair. My other son, Grant, is more technical. He has a PhD from the University of Illinois. He's involved with the IEEE Power Electronics Society (PELS) as a member-at-large, and he's also chairing the Industrial Power Converter Committee. So, one son likes all of the technical doo-hickeys there, and the other likes the sales and marketing side."

Pitel, himself, obtained his doctorate at Carnegie Mellon University after earning Master's and Bachelor's degrees in Electrical Engineering from Bucknell University and Rutgers University, respectively. He has been involved in the IEEE Industry Applications Society (IAS) since 1978.

So, what's the most important lesson he's learned from his years as an APEC exhibitor? "You have to register early," he stated. "They never seem to have enough space to accommodate all of the exhibitors. We always book our booths a year in advance. It's very expensive to do a booth, but if you get one decent sale out of it, it pays for itself."

He concluded, "Essentially, this is advertising for us, and it's really hard to put a quantitative value on it. But we've found that APEC is a very good event to attend if you have a product or component that you're trying to introduce to the market. It's nice to do a show and have your latest stuff there, because that's what all of these engineers want to see. That's why they come to the show. They want an advance peek at everything. The crowd can be quite international, but you also have a lot of 'nuts and bolts' engineers who come to it, and they're all great people."

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