ORLANDO, FLA. (April 2, 10:15 a.m. ET) — The largest number of exhibitors in NPE history — more than 1,900 — filled the three halls of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., today as NPE 2012 opens its first triennial trade show outside of Chicago in more than 40 years.
“That is more exhibitors than we have ever had at the show and that number will probably grow,” said Gene Sanders, senior vice president of trade shows and conferences for the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. at a press breakfast kicking off the show.
Altogether those exhibitors will occupy more than 920,000 square feet of exhibit space — 20 percent more than in 2009, said SPI.
In addition, the show will have more equipment on display that either NPE2009 or NPE2006.
“As of three days ago, 15 million pounds of freight have been shipped into the convention center. That number is up from 9 million in 2009 and 14 million in 2006, and that is significant,” Sanders said.
Because of that, SPI, which operates the show, had to request “3 percent more power than it did in 2006” even though today's equipment operates far efficiently than the machines of six years ago, Sanders said.
“We have a lot more fun leading up to the show this year,” said SPI President and CEO Bill Carteaux, noting that SPI staff members alone walked 1,500 miles the past two weeks to put the show together at the convention center. “It was a lot more somber three years ago even though we had a great show in some difficult times.”
After the presentation, Sanders said that even he was “surprised and impressed by all the weight and all the equipment” that will be on display, noting that one exhibitor bought floor for another company because it wanted a particular machine on display at the show.
And unlike 2009, “almost all the major resins people are here and that's something we haven't seen in awhile,” Sanders said. He also said that SPI had to arrange separate meeting rooms for companies—such as Ford Motor Co., Kraft Foods, and Berry Plastics—who brought large contingents of employees so those companies could meet to plan their days.
Additionally, Apple Computer has more than 60 people at the show, he said.
The shift in location to Orlando has also helped increase the number of international visitors at the show, Sanders said.
“We have visitors [registered attendees] from over 100 countries—25 percent of them from outside the United States—40 percent of them from Latin America,” said Sanders. “We got more participation from Latin and South America than even we anticipated.”
“The number of Chinese visitors is also significant,” said Sanders, particular since that country's big exhibition, Chinaplas, starts less than two weeks after NPE 2012 ends.
“We have more Chinese attendees and more than 250 Chinese exhibitors, which is the largest contingent from that country at any NPE,” Sanders said.
That also reflects the growing internationalization of the show.
Exhibitors from outside the U.S. account for 40 percent of the exhibitor count at NPE 2012, up from 33 percent in 2009. Approximately 41 percent of all international exhibitors come from China, SPI said.
There are 14 international pavilions at the show, an emerging technology pavilion and pavilions focused on different markets, including bioplastics.
Three educational programs will take place concurrently with the show: the SPE Antec plastics technology conference, a Spanish-language seminar and SPI's Business of Plastics Conference.
Sanders also said that he expects attendees from more than 19,000 unique companies—which is similar to the two previous shows, and that those companies represent “more than $100 billion of purchasing power.
“We did a pretty extensive outreach to get people to come to Orlando,” Sanders said. “We expect more than 50,000 people at the show.”
“We had more than 30 million impressions” with our advertising and those messages “reached more people internationally than the past two shows combined,” he said.
SPI president Carteaux also put to rest rumors that the show won't be returning to Orlando in 2015 as a contract has not yet been signed for that show.
“We've committed to doing two shows in Orlando, and we will be back in 2015,” he said. He said a contract had not been signed because SPI discovered a number of things in preparing for this year's show that “it needs to negotiate before the next contract is signed.”
“If things continue to go as well as they have, I foresee us being here for the long-term,” Carteaux added.
“It has been 965 days since we made the decision to come to Orlando,” said John Effman, chairman of the NPE 2012 steering committee. “I think it is more of the best moves that the plastics industry has ever made. There were over 40 volunteers on the show committee. We did our diligence and we think it has paid off.”
Separately, Carteaux said that the economy continues to grow at a moderate pace, and the industry stands to benefit both from reshoring and the rebound in the automotive markets.
“That is a lot of reshoring going on [with manufacturing moving back from China] and the plastics industry will benefit from that,” he said. “The automotive growth has driven a lot of investment over the last several years.”
Carteaux also said that the emerging shale gas industry “puts us in an extremely competitive position from a plastics manufacturing performance for years to come” because 80 percent of plastics in the U.S. are made from natural gas.
He said the plastics industry in 2011 had a $17.8 billion trade surplus and that number should continue to increase.
“We continue to [do] better around the world … and have improved ever since 2005” when the industry experienced a significant decline, said Carteaux. “I'm very, very happy with where the industry is going.”