CHICAGO (Updated June 26, 3:25 p.m. EDT) — Michael Mak is one of more than 7,000 reasons NPE attendance went up this year.
He flew to the show from Hong Kong, where he is the general manager of colorant and masterbatch maker Far East Plastic Colours Co. Ltd. He said he'd never been to NPE before, and stopped by for two days on his way to a meeting in Cleveland.
He's part of the 7,000 or so more international visitors who attended NPE 2000 compared with the 1997 show. Some 17,117 visitors from outside the United States registered for the June 19-23 show, according to Jordan Morgenstern, vice president of trade shows for the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. in Washington.
Total NPE attendance this year hit 90,142, which was 9.1 percent higher than the 82,600 recorded at the last NPE, in 1997.
This year's total breaks a record that has stood since 1946, when the first National Plastics Exposition was held in New York's Grand Central Palace. That was the only year the show was open to the general public.
Back then, 87,000 people crammed into about 24,600 square feet of exhibit space. Several exhibitors at this show have booths about as large as that entire show, Morgenstern said.
"People came to see the wonder material," said Bob Martino, a spokesman for the show, who added that mystique was fueled by new polymers developed in World War II. "People were being told we'd have plastic domes over our cities."
Morgenstern said SPI decided to market this show more aggressively to international visitors, and he said Internet registration and hotel bookings made it easier for people coming from other countries.
SPI did more advertising overseas, he said. About 25 percent of the show's 2,000 exhibitors were non-U.S. companies — a figure that does not include companies with U.S. affiliates such as Van Dorn Demag or Bayer Corp., Morgenstern said.
SPI also offered more extensive turnkey booth service for companies, targeted at overseas firms, he said.
NPE 2000 pumped about $150 million into the Chicago economy during the week of NPE, he added.