PLASTICS says it's working to resolve exhibitors' concerns after NPE2021 cancellation

Jan. 29, 2021
Some companies are upset about refund policies; the association says much of the deposit money was spent on expenses leading up to the show and can't be returned.
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By Karen Hanna 

Amid uncertainty over refunds, representatives of OEMs voiced continuing frustration over the Plastics Industry Association’s (PLASTICS) NPE2021 cancellation. An organization spokesman said he shares their disappointment, and he and his colleagues are working to contact them to discuss next steps. 

“It wasn’t the decision we wanted to make, but it was the only decision we could,” said Brendan Thomas, the VP of advocacy and voice for PLASTICS, explaining that the continuing COVID-19 pandemic forced the organization to call off NPE. 

A PLASTICS email dated Jan. 8 informed NPE exhibitors, “... we will not be refunding any deposits prior to resolution of all of the affairs of NPE2021 and securing the future of PLASTICS as an organization.” The email stated that due to PLASTICS’ costs in planning and marketing NPE, exhibitors might still be on the hook for any remaining balances. 

However, on Jan. 28, Thomas said the organization still is working to equitably resolve issues. Some exhibitors had paid 100 percent toward fees associated with the event, while others had put forth only  50 percent toward booth deposits.  

“It’s a process of determining how we’re going to accommodate everyone, including our exhibitors, and that’s ongoing. … Nothing’s completely settled at this point,” he said. “The idea … that the first 50 percent would be settled by now is probably not a realistic one. We’re looking at a number of different options.”  

In fairness, those who had paid the full amount may get half back, said Thomas, who encouraged companies to get in touch with PLASTICS. Members who have paid the full amount also might choose to put the money toward the association.

Bill Duff, GM of sales and marketing of Yizumi/HPM Corp., said his company worked for about 10 months to prepare for the show  including paying booth-design consultants to help create a layout appropriate for the physical distancing PLASTICS recommended. Had PLASTICS made a decision sooner, he said his company might have saved time and avoided ancillary expenses, such as for hotel rooms. 

Certainty, our expectation is to get some sort of refund. We don’t expect a full refund, but certainly a percentage of what we put down on that show should be refunded to the exhibitors,” he said. 

In an email to another company, PLASTICS explained that its costs make a full refund impossible. 

We understand that it’s hard for companies to justify paying the second 50 percent due, given the circumstances. To the question of the first 50 percent deposits, it’s important to recognize that, as with all events of this size and scope, there are significant ongoing expenses that the Plastics Industry Association incurs to make NPE2021 a success,” the email states. It goes on, “The first 50 percent of exhibitor deposits have been invested in the myriad expenses required in the advance planning stages of the show, as well as to support ongoing operations for PLASTICS, and therefore cannot be returned.” 

Some OEM representatives expressed concern about PLASTICS’ reliance on NPE. 

Whether we like it or not, the organization is depending on NPE income for its existence,” Novatec Inc. President Conrad Bessemer said. 

However, Thomas said the organization is on solid financial footingThough the May 17-21 show won’t take place, the brand is strong, and the association continues to grow; a new strategic plan is set for release soon. 

Thomas stressed PLASTICS’ role in pushing sustainability efforts, lobbying state and federal representatives and supporting companies that make essential goods, such as the health-care products needed in the fight against COVID-19. 

“We fully expect to have more to announce in the coming months about what might be possible around the NPE brand, so I think there’s going to be some exciting opportunities regarding NPE and also the plastics industry itself,” he said. 

The organization is essential, said Donald Rainville, president of Advanced Auxiliary Equipment, who has gone to nearly every show since he was 18.  

Now 65, he said he knew about six months ago the risk of COVID-19 would keep him and his staff from the show. Still, he’s not troubled by the prospect of losing his 50 percent deposit. When it comes to the costs of the show, he sympathizes with both exhibitors and PLASTICS. 

“There’s a lot of sides to this coin, not just two,” Rainville said. 

On one hand, exhibitors, including PLASTICS’ members, have taken a hit in terms of booth costs and other expenses. On the other hand, no one else does the work PLASTICS does to promote and protect the industry. Its efforts to implement safety standards, for instance, benefit workers, as well as jobs. 

“They have very critical functions that I dont think would be addressed if they didn't existI worry about their existence; they exist on the profits from NPE. That pays all their bills for the next three years,” Rainville said. 

The pandemic has shown the world has changed, and NPE might not be the best way for companies, which have become comfortable with virtual marketing efforts, to meet customers and launch productsBessemer said 

Money spent on the show will be a sticking point, he predicted.  

The issue is that they aren’t running the show and, as members have realized, basically the deposit has gone to subsidize the organization. I think youre going to have more members questioning the value proposition,” he said. 

Bessemer, who has suggested that PLASTICS put his company’s deposit toward the next NPE, said, in the wake of recent decisions, companies might question the organization’s value, as well as its expenses such as its Washington, D.C., headquarters. With no refund, he said, then your dues are not just your dues anymore. It tells you what the real cost of membership is. 

Duff also cautioned hard feelings over refunds could linger the next time the show comes around. For now, he’s looking forward to working with PLASTICS to resolve issues. 

That’s what Thomas wants, as well. 

“I think that we’re going to see our way through the NPE situation with the help of our members. I think if we continue to have conversations we’ll be able to find a settlement to any problems that a member might have. We really hope to work together to have the next NPE, to have healthy plastics association and a stong and productive industry. 

Members and exhibitors concerned about issues stemming from the cancellation of NPE should contact [email protected]Thomas said. 

Karen Hanna, associate editor

[email protected]

About the Author

Karen Hanna | Senior Staff Reporter

Senior Staff Reporter Karen Hanna covers injection molding, molds and tooling, processors, workforce and other topics, and writes features including In Other Words and Problem Solved for Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing, Plastics Recycling and The Journal of Blow Molding. She has more than 15 years of experience in daily and magazine journalism.