Commentary: Will the show go on at NPE?

Dec. 22, 2020
The Plastics Industry Association must make a decision soon, so now is the time to let the organization know where you stand.
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UPDATE: The in-person component of NPE2021 has been canceled. See the story at .By Ron Shinn

This is probably not going to be a happy holiday for leaders of the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) and the NPE committee. They are facing a decision very soon on what to do about NPE, the giant trade show scheduled for May 17-21 in Orlando. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging, they face a difficult choice: They must either decide to pull the plug on a show in 2021, opt for some sort of hybrid of a live and virtual event, or go with a strictly virtual event. Postponing it until later in the year is not a possibility because of the size of the show and availability of venues in the U.S. that can accommodate it. 

If PLASTICS rolls the dice and decides to go ahead with a live event, will exhibitors be satisfied with a reduced number of attendees and likely no foreign visitors?  

The clock is ticking because final payment for exhibitors’ booth space is due Jan. 8 and exhibitors need planning time, particularly important for companies showing equipment that must come from Europe or Asia.  

Novatec, a major auxiliary equipment manufacturer, announced last week that it would not exhibit. Novatec President and CEO Conrad Bessemer said there are significant safety concerns for exhibiting staff and attendees related to the pace of vaccinations and the ventilation system in the Orange County Convention Center. 

Bessemer stepped up to say what many company leaders are probably thinking. Exhibiting at NPE can cost some companies upwards of $1 million and they don’t want to commit that much money unless there is a return on their investment. 

But concern about the cost to exhibit is small compared with the cost of exposing staff to a possible COVID-19 super-spreader event. 

Look for more dropouts in the days ahead. 

Here are comments a few exhibitors shared with my colleague Karen Hanna on Monday: 

Jochen Naujokat, president of Delta T Systems, which planned to exhibit for the first time: “It’s probably not going to happen for us, it’s not worth it. I personally think that we will pull out because, under the current situation between now and May, I don’t think we will have a successful show with return on investment. The show is very international, and I don’t see people from Europe flying over and being quarantined for 14 days. I don’t think it’s safe to cram large amounts of people in there, however much room there is.” 

Aline Alroy, VP of sales for High-Technology Corp.: “I have no doubt that the members, the leaders of the association are thinking through scenarios. It’s a difficult situation for everybody. If it would have been September or this time next year, it would have been a no-brainer. 

Monika Gneuss, VP of Gneuss Inc.: “I really wish they would just postpone for two or three months because I think a really late, last-minute decision is going to screw a lot of people. There’s a big maybe over it, right? To ship things by sea freight, we really have to get things ready in early February, and personally, I’m not comfortable with thatI do think a show in 2021 might be a really good idea if everything is true what they say about the economy coming back … but maybe not in MaySeptember would be awesome.”  

At this critical moment, sitting back and waiting on PLASTICS to make a decision is not the best course for exhibitors. You should let PLASTICS CEO Tony Radoszewski know directly your preferences, concerns and plans. If your company has already decided not to exhibit, definitely let him know. 

Without input from exhibitors, PLASTICS cannot make the most informed decision. It needs your help. 

It has been frequently said that profit from NPE funds PLASTICS activities for the next three years, and that is largely true.  But the trade group has survived tough times before by tightening its belt and carefully dipping into rainy day funds. 

Here is another suggestion. If the 2021 show is cancelled, let PLASTICS hold onto the 50 percent deposit already made on your booth space as a credit for booth space in 2024. It is safe to bet that you will exhibit in 2024, and letting PLASTICS hold your deposit is a way to support the organization. The trade group has not yet said it will allow this, but it should be considered.  

What about attendees? The same advice applies. If you would normally attend NPE but have already decided it is too risky to go in 2021, let PLASTICS know. The organization has set up a special email for virus concerns, [email protected]. 

NPE is important to the plastics industry. No one wants to see a diminished event. It is reasonable to expect the U.S. economy will be strong in the second half of 2021, and the plastics industry needs to be positioned to support a recovery.   

Let PLASTICS know what you think. Top leaders need to hear from you now. 

Ron Shinn, editor 

[email protected]