A number of factors easily could have put a damper on Mexico's Plastimagen trade show, held Sept. 3-6 in Mexico City.
A Chinese cloud hangs over some Mexican plastic product manufacturers, many of which are losing molding and assembly business to their less-expensive Asian competitor. The first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States weighed heavy on some the week of the show. In addition, several downpours contributed to traffic gridlock that turned the post-show commute to downtown hotels from a 30-minute ride into a two-hour marathon.
Still, Plastimagen managed to rise above these challenges. Oprex, organizer of the four-day show, said the event set records with 718 exhibitors, 23,213 visitors and more than 29,000 total participants. This was the 12th edition of the now-biennial plastics fair.
Never mind that not all of the venue's walls were complete (no OSHA safety inspectors here), and that workers were still pouring concrete during the plastics expo. Befuddled visitors and even taxi drivers struggled to find the main entrance to the hall among the construction-site chaos.
But, once inside, the airy exhibition hall offered a welcome alternative to the show's former, cramped, multilevel venue, which was ill-equipped for an industrial trade fair. And while some exhibitors simply gave up trying to secure promised Internet access from their booths, the bottom line was that business was being done amid a confident, cautiously optimistic attitude.
The 1-8 p.m. show hours took some getting used to, but inevitably the hall got busy after lunch (i.e. after 4 p.m.). Also, unlike U.S. and Canadian shows, the aisles were as busy at the supposed closing time on Friday, the last night, as during virtually any other time of the week.
The Washington-based Society of Plastics Industry Inc. - which led a plastics trade mission to the Guadalajara region earlier in the year - was conspicuous by its absence, especially given that Plastimagen is the only national plastics expo held in Mexico, one of America's largest trading partners. The Canadian government, on the other hand, aggressively led a match-making mission for packaging machinery and mold-making firms and also helped put together a pavilion of more than two-dozen exhibiting companies.
There clearly appeared to be fewer American executives in attendance, which could have been attributable to any number of factors, including budget cuts and Sept. 11-related travel concerns. However, one colleague suggested that, compared with a few years ago, the Mexican operations of U.S. companies now are better established and being run by local managers with less direct oversight from headquarters.
Grace is Plastics News' associate publisher and editor.