Matt McKinnon, a member of the 2017 Plastics News Rising Stars, attended his first NPE this year, and spoke with Plastics News prior to the May event to discuss his expectations for the event.
"I'm going to NPE to meet with current and potential suppliers and customers. At NPE, I'll be able to have more meetings in a week than I could probably accomplish in months otherwise," he said. "I'm expecting chaos all week! Between customers and suppliers, I'll be spending a lot of time in Osterman's meeting rooms at the show, and I will be attending many events hosted by various companies in the evenings."
The 33-year-old business manager for polystyrene and engineering thermoplastics at Osterman & Co. Inc., expects to spend a lot of time in the company's meeting room, room W208B, supporting the resin distributor's sales team.
Q: When did you decide that you wanted a career in plastics? What was appealing about it?
McKinnon: Plastics sort of chose me. I worked as a trader of mortgage-backed securities throughout the financial crisis. Afterward I decided it wasn't for me; I wanted to work in an industry that actually produced something.
My college baseball teammate worked as a sales rep at Osterman, [and he] pitched me that there was a huge talent gap in the industry with hardly any young people and that learning the business through sales and leveraging my financial background into a management position would be very feasible.
It was a fantastic move that I have never second-guessed.
Q: What's your main aim in coming to this year's show?
McKinnon: My aim is relationship building, whether that is a new or existing relationship; there is no substitute for face time and no better place to do a lot of it at once than NPE.
Q: How much time have you spent preparing for the show? What sort of prep work can you do for a trip/trade show like NPE?
McKinnon: Fortunately, we have a terrific team at Osterman that has done most of the legwork in preparing for NPE. The time I have spent has been scheduling meetings with customers and producers.
Q: What do you think a typical day at the show will be like for you?
McKinnon: My day will be breakfast meeting, meeting, meeting, lunch meeting, meeting, drinks/dinner meeting.
I will be at our meeting room a lot, supporting our sales team by bringing the product knowledge I have to customer meetings that they have lined up, and then in between those, meeting with current and new supply partners.
Q: What do you think will be the main talking points at NPE this year?
McKinnon: I think the theme of NPE will be uncertainty. The industry has recently faced hurricanes, supply shortages/outages, rising prices, a slow-moving tidal wave of PE supply and now a potential trade war. Most of our discussions will be helping our customers and suppliers navigate as much of the risks associated with these uncertainties as possible.
Q: What are you excited about seeing?
McKinnon: I am most excited about seeing what's new on display at the show. This could be new products, new companies, new plant announcements, etc. All of which create unexpected opportunities.
Q: You said you'll be looking for potential new suppliers located outside the United States. Why is that, and what sorts of companies are you looking for?
McKinnon: The plastics industry is global, and thanks to technology, I can easily transact anywhere in the world. Resin pricing and availability can vary widely by region, and I want to be able to offer our customers the opportunity to add value to their business by having a global supply strategy through Osterman. In order to do that, I am always looking for new suppliers in new parts of the world, and NPE will be a great place to do that.
Q: How will you gauge whether this show is successful?
McKinnon: The show will be successful; its an opportunity to build relationships. And with as much as I have scheduled a month in advance, that much is guaranteed.
Q: Will you do anything for fun, or is it all work all the time?
McKinnon: I'm bringing my golf clubs! Other than that, since its my first show, I'm not sure what I'll be getting into fun-wise.