AKRON, OHIO (Sept. 13, 5:20 p.m. EDT) — The terrorist attack on two U.S. landmarks caused the postponement of at least one long-time industry conference, scheduled to start a day after the tragedy, and led to trepidation among organizers of many others.
The International Association of Plastics Distributors quickly scrambled Sept. 11 to change the date of its annual convention. The event, expected to attract as many as 600 people, was supposed to begin Sept. 12 in Nashville.
“It was just crazy here on [Sept. 11],” said marketing director Shasonta Powers of the Leawood, Kan.-based group. “The events of that day and all the madness associated with it caused us to make a quick decision. We were flooded with phone calls from concerned members worried about their safety flying on planes.”
The group, which represents distributors and manufacturers of semi-finished stock shapes, rescheduled the event for Nov. 28 to Dec. 2 at the same Opryland Hotel venue. All conference speakers from the September event are expected to attend, Powers said.
But making new arrangements took some fast footwork. IAPD sent faxes to attendees and participants late in the day Sept. 11 informing them of the cancellation. A day later, calls were made to the same group communicating the new date.
“The hotel and decorating company for the exhibit hall worked with us very well while all this was happening,” Powers said. “We shouldn't end up losing anything, but we won't know until we see how many people actually come back.”
An estimated 20 attendees had arrived early for the conference to do some sightseeing, Powers said. But the vast majority waited until Sept. 11 to arrive. With all U.S. flights grounded after the two bombings, telephone calls quickly started coming in bunches to the association office.
Another plastics event was forced to end early following the attack. The Vinyltec 2001 conference broke off at noon Sept. 12 after several speakers were forced to cancel at the last minute.
The conference was scheduled for Sept. 11-12 in Iselin, N.J., outside New York City, by the Vinyl Plastics Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers. Most of the 200 attendees arrived the night before the attacks.
Meanwhile, with some trepidation among attendees and organizers, the show will go on for many other industry events scheduled in late September and early October.
The SPE's Thermoforming Division will proceed with its annual Thermoformers Conference & Exhibition, scheduled for Sept. 15-18 in Milwaukee.
The division's Executive Committee and Conference Committee were in Milwaukee last week in advance of the event, and decided to move ahead with the show after discussions with the conference hotels and Midwest Express Convention Center.
“This decision was made in part because of President Bush's request that we not change our lives to accommodate the terrorists,” SPE said in a news release. “The decision was also based on the fact that an overwhelming majority of our registered attendees live within an easy day's drive of Milwaukee. In addition, as of today we have 121 exhibitors that are on schedule to be here.”
Polyurethanes Expo 2001 also is going ahead on schedule, said Fran Lichtenberg, executive director of the Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry, which is sponsoring the conference.
Hotels are filling up, although a few overseas registrants have canceled, she said. The expo will be held Sept. 30 to Oct. 3 in Columbus, Ohio.
The American Mold Builders Association plans to hold its annual fall conference as scheduled, Sept. 27-30 in Dearborn, Mich.
“There's a little apprehension by those flying from the West Coast,” said Geri Anderson, administrative coordinator with Medinah, Ill.-based AMBA. “We're holding fast that everyone has the courage to get on a plane and come.”
Another national event, Plastics USA 2001, also will continue as scheduled Oct. 2-4 in Chicago, unless top executives decide otherwise, said Adam Krumhansl of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s conference department. SPI — co-sponsoring the event with SPE — could have taken up the issue during a business meeting in Arlington, Va., scheduled to end Sept. 12.
Yet the meeting ended abruptly a day earlier after the spouses of several SPI board members witnessed the explosion at the Pentagon building nearby. The board still might take up issues about exhibition, Krumhansl said.
“We expect to go on with it,” Krumhansl said. “There haven't been any changes. We'll do as much as we can do.”
The back-to-back Rotoplas '01 exhibition and the fall meeting of the Association of Rotational Molders will go on as planned, said a spokeswoman for the Oak Brook, Ill.-based association. The Minneapolis events, planned for Sept. 23-26, have been paid for and could not be canceled at this late date, she said.
“It's not the time to do anything different,” she said.
The same holds true for the SPE Automotive TPO Global Conference 2001, set for Oct. 1-3 in Dearborn. That event will run as scheduled, said spokeswoman Pat Levine.
And two e-business conferences planned for late September and early October also will move forward, said customer services manager Maria Main of London-based EyeForChem.com. The largest of the two, EyeForChem USA 2001, is planned Oct. 2-3 in Philadelphia, while an automotive-based show is scheduled the same week in Detroit.
“Basically, as far as we can see, there might be some fallout,” Main said. “Companies directly affected in New York might not be able to come. But we can't really gauge what will happen yet.”