SPI SVP Gene Sanders on NPE 2015: It behooves us to be in Orlando

February 21, 2014

To all of you who are griping that NPE 2015 has abandoned venerable Chicago for the sunny climes of Orlando, FL, deal with it. You know who you are. I wish I did, though.

I was in Orlando to attend the NPE 2015 space draw this week to gauge the mood of exhibitors and find out how they really feel about North America's premier plastics event heading south for the winter once again. I was hoping for some drama but, to tell the truth, I couldn't find any disgruntled customers. Maybe the weather had something to do with it—a balmy 80°, in case you're wondering—or maybe, as SPI's Senior Vice President Gene Sanders told me, it's all about return on investment.

The 2015 event will be the second time NPE has pitched its tent in Orlando. It's not a decision that was taken lightly. "Our committee did another competitive advantage analysis comparing Chicago and Orlando. The conclusion: it behooves us to to be in Orlando," Sanders told me. In a nutshell, "we want to do everything we can to enable companies to bring as much equipment and personnel as they need to the show," says Sanders. "It just costs a lot less to do that here."

Sanders cited hotel expenses as one example. The average room rate in Orlando is $157 versus $250 to $300 in Chicago. When you are sending several people to staff the booth for multiple nights, that adds up, he notes. Sanders also likes the "campus feel" of the convention center and surrounding hotels, which are connected by elevated walkways. And the glut of attractions in Orlando give exhibitors and attendees a bounty of reasons to bring the family.

Based on advance numbers from the space draw compared with the NPE 2012 event, SPI has every reason to feel vindicated. At the space draw for NPE 2012, 670,000 sq ft were booked and a little more than 600 companies showed up. This year, somewhere in the neighborhood of 800,000 sq ft will be booked and almost 800 companies will have made the trek.

While some midwesterners chose to stay home in 2012 and may do so again, the fact is that "attendance from that part of the country was declining even while we were at McCormick Place," says Sanders. On the upside, traffic from South America was up in 2012 and there's no indication that international participation from south of the border will drop in 2015.

If there is one thing that several people did mention that they will miss from Chicago, it's the food. No argument there.

While touring the convention center with a group of exhibitors, our guide made several references to new "food concepts" that are being developed in the area. Personally, I don't like the sound of that. Too much ambiance and theme, not enough cuisine. To be fair, the Pointe Orlando dining and entertainment complex within walking distance of the convention center has some good restaurants, as do the various hotels, even if they tend to have a corporate flavor.

NPE 2015 returns to Orlando on March 23 to 27, 2015. For more information, go to the NPE 2015 website

Norbert Sparrow


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