Anyone seeking evidence of the increasingly global nature of the plastics industry needed to look no further than the aisles of the NPE 2006 show in Chicago.
The event's organizers pledged that NPE this year - in its 25th iteration - finally would earn the globe in its official logo. The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., owner and sponsor of the triennial, five-day event, promoted NPE aggressively to overseas trade associations and markets. President Bill Carteaux sent strong signals abroad that his group was ready to work with non-U.S. groups.
Mahesh Shah, president of the Plastindia Foundation, the Mumbai-based association that organizes the triennial Plastindia show, said SPI's outreach directly contributed to India sending 41 exhibiting companies to the Chicago show this year, after barely having a presence in 2003. Greater China, meanwhile, led the international parade, with some 188 exhibitors - and several visitor delegations - coming from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
This ``internationalization'' of NPE is not only representative of global trends in general, but also vital to the future growth of North America's largest plastics trade show.
Germany's eight-day-long K show, by virtue of being set in Europe's heartland, remains the world's most international plastics exhibition. Its organizer, Messe Dusseldorf GmbH, said the 2,914 exhibitors at its 2004 show came from 52 countries, and attendees from more than 100 countries.
Meanwhile, the annual Chinaplas expo, organized by Hong Kong's Adsale Exhibitions Services Ltd., is on an arc to join the world's elite plastics shows. That four-day event is growing at a torrid pace, in step with China's plastics industry. After a record-setting Shanghai show this year, Adsale Chairman Stanley Chu predicts that next May's show in Guangzhou will see the number of exhibitors increase by 5 percent, to about 1,500 companies, and the total exhibit space grow by about 8 percent, to more than 1 million square feet. This year's edition drew nearly 60,000 attendees. It's time for Adsale to expand Chinaplas to five days.
The six-day Plastindia show, next scheduled for early 2009 in New Delhi, also is expanding quickly, but needs a better exhibition center before it can be considered world-class.
The lines between these events are beginning to blur, as the global marketplace becomes more of a reality. Hence the wisdom for NPE to broaden its reach.
``NPE'' used to stand for ``National Plastics Exposition.'' That changed last decade, when SPI shortened the moniker to simply the acronym, to try to broaden the event's international image. The NPE name has built up significant brand equity, and one must ponder the consequences carefully before tinkering with a well-known brand. Still, it seems far less than intuitive to say, ``Welcome to NPE, the International Plastics Expo!''
After seeing the changing nature of this year's event, one has to wonder: Will we be seeing you at ``IPE 2009''?
Grace is editor and associate publisher of Plastics News.