Countdown to NPE2018 and a good time to admit I was wrong

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Every three years around this time, my professional life revolves around NPE. North America's largest plastics trade show will welcome more than 65,000 visitors to Orlando, Fla., in just two months.

We've already started gathering news and features for our five pre-show issues in April, and we're planning coverage for our daily reports that will be reported and written on-site at the show.

There's a lot of planning involved for us to have a successful show, and I know that's true for many exhibitors, too. NPE is an event where companies want to make a big splash with new products, technology and business news. It's an international show, and the eyes of the global plastics industry will be focused on the Orange County Convention Center from May 7-11.

It doesn't seem like an exaggeration to say everyone will be there. I can't count the number of times I've bumped into people I know at NPE, and I've attended every show since 1991. (And my colleagues know I've spent a lot of time at those nine shows in a newsroom, far off the beaten path from the show floor. Imagine how many more people I'd see if I spent the entire day walking the aisles!)

Before the hustle and bustle of the show, and our deadlines, start, this seems like a good time for me to revisit a comment I made about NPE way back in 2009. I think I need to — wait for it — admit I was wrong.

Pepsi, Chicago and Orlando

Back in July 2009, just after NPE wrapped up in Chicago's McCormick Place, we published a story saying that the Plastics Industry Association — then called the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. — was considering moving the show to a new location.

Initially I thought it was just a bargaining ploy by the show organizer to win some concessions from Chicago, which had a reputation for being expensive, especially for exhibitors.

A few months later, in September, we published a column from a machinery company exhibitor, which we headlined "Costs could defeat McCormick."

He cited a humorous and very memorable story, which I predicted at the time would forever be known as "The Pepsi incident." During NPE2009, his booth ran out of soft drinks, so his staff ordered more through the convention center office. They ordered four cases of Pepsi products, which they figured would have cost around $30 at the local grocery store.

At McCormick Place, the cost was $345.39. The taxes alone totaled $38.06.

"Now, a nice man in a tuxedo delivered the Pepsi, along with a couple of buckets of ice and a few cups. Good service? Sure, but not worth $345.39," he wrote.

Within days, the story went viral. I was getting calls from Chicago news reporters; one called me "the grand poo-bah of Plastics News," which I'd like to add to my business card.

But I wrote at the time that I thought it was unlikely that NPE would move. "Can you imagine having NPE in Orlando or Las Vegas? You'd miss out on a huge number of attendees — like those drawn to Chicago — who are an easy one-tank trip away," I wrote. "I still can't imagine SPI picking a new venue for NPE 2012. But I'm not surprised that it is taking a serious look at all the possibilities."

It turns out I was wrong. When the decision to move to Orlando came on Nov. 17, 2009, I'm proud to say that had it first, before any of the Chicago and Orlando media. That may have been our biggest scoop in Plastics News' nearly 29-year history.

The Plastics Industry Association took a pretty big risk back in 2009, but the decision has paid off. NPE2018 promises to be bigger and better than ever. And here I thought they were just trying to get a better deal from Chicago.

Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of The Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.