Nearly 1,000 people gathered at the recent SPE Thermoforming Division meeting in Fort Mitchell, Ky., because they believe in a process that is finally coming into its own as a major player in the plastics industry. The board members boast that when this conference began in 1990, 89 people attended.
Each year, as word has spread, more people seek out this conference and participate. This year, more than 150 people showed up to register on-site. People came from as far away as New Zealand. What's the key to this success?
First and foremost, it's a strong commitment on the part of all those who have the best interest of the industry at heart.
Second, this group meets in places like South Bend, Ind., and Fort Mitchell. While they are not exactly hot spots of the Western world, they are accessible, and the cost of a hotel room is usually less than $70 per night. For exhibitors, the cost of the booth space is minimal as well.
Third, the conferences are held over a weekend so that by Tuesday afternoon attendees can head back to work.
Fourth, the technical sessions are just that - technical sessions.
This group wants to appeal to the nontraditional member. Sure, they'll always attract the company owner and maybe the next one or two in the chain of command. But this division goes all out to attract the production employee, and keeps fees and expenses to a minimum so that even a small company can bring four or five people.
Next year, however, the conference will be held Sept. 13-16 at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel and Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta. There will be 150 10-foot booths - piped, draped, carpeted and signed - for a full-blown exhibition. And it will be more expensive, although the board has promised that they will keep the event ``affordable.''
Several of those in attendance questioned the wisdom of breaking with tradition and stepping into the big time. Still, with the numbers hitting the 1,000 mark, small hotels don't have the facilities to accommodate all those who want to attend and exhibit.
Stanley Rosen, president of Mold Systems Corp. in Valley Cottage, N.Y., and I chatted about the great success of this division.
``You know that several years ago when the much-disliked Hollywood studio mogul Harry Cohen died, thousands of people turned out in a downpour for the funeral,'' Rosen told me. ``Another studio head remarked, `See what happens when you give the people what they want? They always turn out for it.'''
It is clear that this division has been giving members what they want. It's crucial they keep this focus if success is to continue.
Goldsberry is a Plastics News correspondent based in Phoenix.