Will the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. vote to move the NPE 2012 and 2015 shows to Orlando, Fla.? Or will Chicago manage to keep the show in McCormick Place?
Last week Plastics News broke the story about the two cities courting SPI's Executive Board at SPI's meeting in Arlington, Va.
Not surprisingly, this story is getting a lot of attention. Almost everyone seems to have an opinion.
One reader posted this comment minutes after we posted our story online: “Chicago has held this show hostage and has been very inflexible to exhibitors in the past. Why would we expect anything different in the future? It is time to move on. Orlando would be a much more friendly environment for both exhibitors and attendees.”
Another added: “As an installer of plastics machinery, I know what hassles and costs Chicago levies on attendees when setting up their displays. … Orlando has lower-cost hotels within walking distance (no more bus/cab waiting lines) and with low-cost airfares, international and domestic direct flights, people — especially [international visitors] — would want to bring the whole family and enjoy the world-famous attractions like Kennedy Space Center, the golf and beaches and, of course, [Disney World].”
On the other hand, Florida has never been a great destination for plastics trade shows. Florida is great for conferences, sure, especially in January, February and March. But numbers of local attendees are important to show organizers, and Florida suffers from a smaller-sized plastics sector. According to SPI statistics, Florida ranks No. 20 among U.S. states in plastics employment, with 23,200 workers, and No. 18 in plastics shipments.
Illinois is fifth in employment — with 71,000 workers — and fourth in shipments. And Illinois is surrounded by other states with big plastics contingents.
Moving NPE to Orlando would be likely to mean significant changes to the show. Lower attendance, perhaps, but with more international visitors.
But how do international exhibitors feel about a move? SPI depended on them to help pick up the slack at NPE2009. More than a third of the 2,000 exhibitors came from outside the U.S. But most of them won't have a say in this decision. Would they go along with a move to Orlando?
Some think the flirtation with Orlando isn't serious. They believe SPI is just playing hardball with Chicago, hoping to win some concessions before going back to McCormick Place.
There's a lot at stake, for SPI, the U.S. plastics industry, and for the cities themselves. The five-day show this year generated $95.3 million in direct spending, which includes transportation, lodging and entertainment, according to the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau.
Well, SPI, you've got Chicago's attention. Now you're faced with a pretty big decision. What's it going to be — Mickey's playground, or City of the Big Shoulders?
Loepp is managing editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.”