It has been touted as the ultimate in North American plastics trade shows. Almost 2,000 exhibitors and more than 85,000 visitors will help the show live up to expectations. But aside from the numbers and big figures, here are some simple facts about NPE and Chicago to help first-time as well as veteran show-goers navigate the trip to the Windy City's McCormick Place.
Q. What is NPE?
A. NPE, sponsored by the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., is held every three years in McCormick Place in Chicago. This year, it is being held June 19-23 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Q. Is NPE worth attending?
A. The show puts the entire industry in three buildings, where new technology and products are displayed, company news is revealed and seminars offer ideas for improving business and production.
According to a survey of NPE 1997 attendees, 85 percent had the power to buy, approve or recommend products and services they saw at NPE.
Also, 50 percent did not attend any other plastics trade show. As of May 5, there were 1,977 exhibitors registered for NPE, including 502 first-time exhibitors. SPI said it is expecting twice as many visitors as there were in 1997.
Q. How do I register?
A. Registration, which costs $60, is available online at www.npe.org. Show visitors also can register on-site at McCormick Place.
Q. Where can I stay?
A. All of the hotels currently are sold out, but the NPE housing office is trying to find other hotels to work with the show. For visitors who still do not have hotel reservations, finding a place to sleep may be reminiscent of a feeding frenzy in the movie, "Piranha."
To cut through some hassle, the Web site www.worldexecutive.com/cityguides/chicago/index.html might help visitors find hotels and perhaps even a discount on a room.
Otherwise, the NPE housing office may help attendees find shelter. Call (703) 205-2975 for information.
Q. How do I get there?
A. Chicago traffic is never pretty, and the influx of plastics people won't help. Public transportation or taxis are the best options. NPE is providing free shuttle buses from McCormick to downtown hotels and back, but not to area airports or other destinations.
Chicago Transit Authority buses and the Metra electric trains can help navigate the rest of the city. A Metra stop at McCormick Place goes straight to the stations at Randolph and Van Buren Streets. The CTA buses cost $1.50 and Metra costs $1.75, both one-way.
For attendees who are driving, be sure to watch for construction on I-55, the Stevenson Expressway.
Q. Where can I park?
A. McCormick Place has four lots around it, but two are reserved. The McCormick hotel's lot charges an hourly rate, as opposed to the others' flat rate of $10 per day, and there are no in-out privileges. Additional parking is available in the Soldier Field and Burnham Harbor lots. Parking in the rest of downtown almost always is scarce and expensive.
Q. How do I find the companies I want to see?
A. Navigating the building calls for the same amount of planning and preparation as a long family vacation across the country. Hundreds of exhibitors are new, and hundreds of others are in different areas than previous years.
To prepare, visitors will need the booth number and location of each company they want to visit. That information can be found by using the exhibitor list in this publication, the online exhibitor locator at www.plasticsnews.com, or by visiting NPE's Web site, www.npe.org.
The NPE Web site also provides a personal planner to help visitors.
NPE is not made for casual strolling and window shopping — careful planning is the best way to visit the most booths.
Q. What conferences and seminars are being offered?
A. The Society of Plastics Engineers is sponsoring both free and paid conferences. Pre-registration for paid seminars ended May 19, so visitors must register at McCormick Place, as long as the seminar has not been canceled because of poor pre-registration turnout.
A schedule of the 31/2 days of free conferences is listed in this publication, online at www.plas ticsnews.com, www.npe.com and www.4spe.org. The conferences usually address industry areas most represented by attendees.
Q. What's special about NPE 2000?
A. Numbers and more numbers. It has not even happened yet, but NPE 2000 already is breaking records. According to SPI, the number of exhibitors since May 5 already has exceeded 1997's final, at-show total.
NPE 2000 also appears poised to set an attendance record. As of May 23, 58,850 people had preregistered to attend NPE. At the same point three years ago, 38,724 had preregistered. In fact, preregistrations already have surpassed the figure reached the first day of the 1997 show.
Almost 8,000 international visitors have preregistered, which is several times more than the total foreign attendees who made the trip in 1997.
Q. What is there to do after the show?
A. If visitors are not completely worn out by the daily shows, Chicago offers numerous cultural, historical and entertainment options.
The biggest attractions include the Field Museum's exhibit of Sue, the biggest T. rex ever discovered; the baseball match-up between the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians the first four nights of NPE; and the city's many jazz and blues clubs.
More entertainment information is available online at www.chicago.il.org.
Q. Where can I get more information about NPE and Chicago?
A. In addition to the NPE Web site, Plastics News' Web site at www.plasticsnews.com will report breaking news from the show.
Its Around Town section includes links to Chicago-area news and a variety of other information. The special NPE sections also contain product and business features, an exhibitor locator and links for online registration.