ORLANDO—The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. has signed contracts to keep NPE at the Orange County Convention Center in 2018 and 2021, and the trade association also has reserved dates for NPE 2024 in Orlando.
The news comes as NPE 2015 kicks off in Orlando this week, bringing an expected 60,000 visitors and more than 2,000 exhibitors to the Sunshine State—and according to SPI, pumping $151 million into the Orlando economy through hotels, meals and entertainment, cab rides and other spending.
“NPE 2015 is expected to be the largest, most successful international plastics showcase in our 69-year history,” said Bill Carteaux, SPI president and CEO.
This is the second NPE in Orlando; the first was in 2012.
In addition to revealing the NPE schedule through 2024, Carteaux also disclosed a previously unreported story: SPI and Chicago government and union leaders held talks in 2013 on alternating NPE locations between Orlando and Chicago.
Those talks were not successful.
“There was negotiation back and forth for several months, and the bottom line was we couldn't reach a mutually agreeable understanding to start a rotation,” Carteaux said. “In the fall of 2013 we went back to Chicago and said, ‘We'd like to talk to you about starting a rotation of NPE between Chicago and Orlando, in 2021.'”
At the time, SPI already had locked into Orlando for 2015 and 2018.
“We had in-depth discussions,” Carteaux said.
SPI was committed to making a decision by Jan. 1, 2014.
In the fall and early winter of 2013, SPI leaders, including Carteaux and Gene Sanders, SPI's vice president of trade shows and conferences, met with officials from Chicago including David Causton, general manager of McCormick Place; Don Welsh, president and CEO of Choose Chicago; and representatives from all the unions at McCormick Place.
Carteaux also said he talked to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel about the show.
“I have met with him several times since he's been mayor,” he said.
The last NPE in Chicago was in June 2009, ending a streak of 14 straight shows there. SPI moved the show because of complaints from exhibitors about high costs and rigid union work rules at the McCormick Place convention center.
Since then, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) and the unions have worked to reform McCormick Place, as outlined in Illinois state legislation passed in 2010.
But Carteaux said it wasn't enough. The cost to exhibit at McCormick Place is still 20 to 25 percent higher than Orlando, he said.
One reason: Orlando allows exhibitors to do much more of their setup and teardown work, faster and with less expense, he said.
“So we ran the exercise, and the prices changed, but the cost has not. … They can lower the price, then it takes them twice as long to do the work. So the cost hasn't changed,” Carteaux said.
He added that members of the SPI committee responsible for NPE have heard no complaints about Orlando, even from naysayers who had questioned the 2012 move.
Contacted for this story, MPEA and Choose Chicago did not directly address their negotiations with SPI or whether they would try to get NPE back. Instead, they highlighted a survey by Cvent, an online event management company, that indicates a rebound in Chicago's convention business.
Their joint statement said: “The events calendar at McCormick Place continues to be robust as the historic reforms are working providing our customers with significant savings across the board and flexibility on the show floor. The convention and meetings business in Chicago is well positioned for the future with more than $6 billion in new, recommitted or extended shows secured since the reforms were put in place. Chicago has also been recognized by Cvent as the No. 1 U.S. destination for meetings and events.”
Chicago moved up to first place in the Cvent ranking for 2014—surpassing Orlando, which moved down from No. 1 in the 2013 ranking, to second place.
Convention planners say Orlando and Chicago are the only two U.S. cities with convention centers that could host an NPE because of large amount of power needed to run all the machinery.