You would expect that as chairman of NPE 2000 I would be quick to point out that this show, the 23rd in NPE history, is the biggest and best of all. And it is just that. In number of exhibitors, amount of exhibit space, and size of attendance, NPE 2000 is the largest plastics exposition ever staged in the Americas. As for being the best:
First consider the greater global makeup of NPE 2000. Of about 2,000 exhibiting companies, 500 come directly from outside the United States, and others are U.S. subsidiaries of international companies. And although breakouts for on-site visitor registration are not yet available, the number of preregistered attendees from outside the U.S. is nearly four times that for the last NPE, in 1997.
Three initiatives by the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., sponsor of the NPE shows, have driven the internationalization of NPE 2000:
A big expansion in the marketing of NPE outside the United States, including advertising, direct mail, and public relations.
Participation in the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Buyer Program, which promotes attendance at NPE 2000, helps international attendees establish contacts with exhibitor companies, and operates in the International Center (Room S100B) here at the show.
And, increasing the accessibility of NPE to global audiences by redesigning the NPE Web site, to simplify preregistration and hotel arrangements and provide instant access to information from NPE 2000 exhibitors — virtually all of which now have Web sites of their own.
The Internet revolution has brought new kinds of exhibitors to NPE 2000. Still represented in full force are the machinery, material, and other companies that always have exhibited, but at this show there is an influx of e-commerce companies that did not even exist at the time of NPE 1997. NPE 2000 also has attracted more of the software companies, plastics design engineering firms, and other specialized providers that first became significant at NPE in the 1990s.
The same is true for the many regional development agencies, electrical utilities, and other site-selection exhibitors looking to attract plastics companies.
The Internet is also affecting NPE in another way. For people now accustomed to buying and selling online, NPE 2000 is their best opportunity to meet all of their suppliers or customers face to face, make contacts, see new products at firsthand, and "kick the tires." You cannot do these things online.
Nor is there an easier way to get a sense of emerging trends and the structural shifts that industries undergo than to attend a trade show and meet your industry colleagues.
To address the growing importance of NPE as the industry's meeting place, SPI has developed new programs to accommodate a broader range of interests.
It has worked with the Society of Plastics Engineers, for example, to redesign the NPE conference program. In addition to sessions on technology, SPE has added topics such as global business strategy, e-commerce, site selection, and issues affecting key end-use markets.
Those of us serving on NPE 2000 committees have taken part in these activities and initiated some. All committee members are employed by companies in the plastics industry that are also exhibitors. My own firm, Conair, has exhibited at NPE since 1963.
These roots in the industry, combined with sponsorship by its trade association, SPI, are what makes NPE so successful. A show created by the industry for the industry, NPE readily adapts to the growth and change that are the only constants in the field of plastics.
Witherup is chairman of NPE 2000 and vice president of international sales for Conair Group of Pittsburgh.