No less than 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside the United States, and as a result, more and more U.S. companies are looking to increase their international sales. Conversely, the North American market remains the Holy Grail for some firms based outside the continent.
Those compelling reasons - combined with the reality of a challenging domestic trade-show market - have driven the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. to try to transform NPE 2006 into the most international show in the Chicago-based event's 60-year, 25-show history. Early numbers indicate those efforts are paying off.
According to data released June 7 by SPI, the number of companies coming to the June 19-23 NPE directly from outside the United States is expected to account for slightly more than a third of all exhibitors, up from 30 percent at NPE 2003 and 24.5 percent in 2000.
Leading the growth is China, with the mainland and Hong Kong now accounting for 127 exhibiting companies. Asian companies in general represent 45 percent of international exhibitors thus far.
Canada and Germany, which traditionally send large numbers of exhibiting companies to NPE, again are the source of the largest non-Asian contingents.
The show features at least 15 multiexhibitor ``country'' pavilions organized by associations in their home nations.
Another measure is visitor preregistration. While not all preregistrants actually show up, and visitors can continue to register on-site during the show, total registrations as of June 7 included a 21 percent share by individuals outside the U.S., compared with 15 percent at the comparable period for the NPE 2003 show. The total international shares at the end of the NPE shows in 2000, 1997, and 1994 were 19 percent, 15 percent and 12 percent, respectively.
The growing level of international participation has spurred the need for new and enhanced services to assist those visitors when they hit the show floor in Chicago.
``Anticipating this,'' said Walt Bishop, SPI's vice president of trade shows, ``we have developed a wide range of resources enabling international exhibitor personnel and visitors to make the most of their time at NPE 2006.''
The Department of Commerce is a very active partner in this effort. And the U.S. Commercial Service - with a network of 1,700 trade specialists in 108 U.S. cities and over 150 posts in more than 80 countries worldwide - points out that many of its services and programs are available at no cost.
Here's a review of their NPE on-site services:
Once again, the Commerce Department has selected NPE to promote participation in its International Buyer Program. Through this, the government provides a three-pronged approach that helps small and medium-sized U.S. businesses export their products and services, according to Curt Cultice, senior communications specialist for the group in Washington.
First: USCS' overseas staffs, located at U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the world, work to recruit and bring to the show foreign buyer delegations, and help organize their plans for doing business at the show. Even if a delegation cannot be formed in a country, Commercial Service specialists advertise NPE 2006 through various media outlets and encourage buyers to register and come on their own.
Numerous official DOC delegations from all over the world have been recruited to attend the show. Cultice said those include: Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, Taiwan and Uruguay.
Second: During the show, Commercial Service trade specialists are managing the NPE International Center in the Grand Ballroom of McCormick Place's South Hall, along with international registration. Buyers there may negotiate with sellers, use the meeting rooms provided free of charge on a first-come, first-serve basis, and take advantage of the facility to plan their visits to the exhibit floor. Exhibitors also are encouraged to visit the International Center for interpreter services and export counseling from the Commercial Service.
Third: With its network of offices across the U.S. and in more than 80 countries, the USCS uses its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. This assistance includes export counseling, market research, matchmaking and pre-arranged business appointments abroad through its ``gold key'' service, advocacy, videoconferencing, international partner searches, trade events and more. The group offers more details online at www.export.gov.
Try speed dating, in business-style
SPI and DOC are jointly presenting at NPE a free program called Market Place. It runs from 8 till 9 a.m. on June 20-22, before the exhibit floor opens on its middle three days, and also in the South Hall's Grand Ballroom. Cultice said it is an open market, with no prescheduled appointments, but it provides exhibitors with several opportunities to talk to U.S. Embassy trade specialists from around the world. Make introductions, swap business cards, gather literature, chat for five to 10 minutes and move on to the next station. Consider it speed dating, business-style.
Together, the involved parties can explore export opportunities and discuss the latest market information on their respective countries. At past NPE shows, these efforts have led to numerous export successes and tens of thousands of dollars in U.S. export sales.
Assistance available at Export Pavilion
The show also includes a U.S. Export Pavilion in McCormick's Grand Concourse Lobby where exhibitors can get firsthand information on U.S. government export services. From market research to financing international buyers, Cultice said the pavilion's agencies are prepared to give American businesses information and assistance to help them negotiate the global marketplace.
Trade specialists from the DOC's Commercial Service, Census Bureau, National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America, and U.S. Export-Import Bank are available to discuss trade opportunities with NPE exhibitors and attendees alike.
SPI has organized international networking receptions in the NPE International Center during four of the show's five afternoons, with the following schedule:
* Monday, 3:30-5 p.m. - North America networking event (with speakers representing trade associations from the U.S., Canada and Mexico).
* Tuesday, 3:30-5 p.m. - Asian networking event (with speakers from China, India and South Korea).
* Wednesday, 4-6 p.m. - International reception, open to all international visitors and exhibitors.
* Thursday, 3:30-5 p.m - Latin American networking event (with speakers from Brazil, Chile and Costa Rica).
Additionally, SPI offers information on business and networking opportunities for international visitors on the NPE Web site (itself available in eight languages) at www.npe.org/international.
* * *
Exhibitors coming to NPE 2006 directly from outside the U.S.
Czech Republic: 1
South Africa: 1
Hong Kong: 18
United Kingdom: 15
Total exhibitors: 615
*International exhibitors are defined as those coming directly from outside the U.S., as distinct from U.S. subsidiaries based in other countries.
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington