FAIRLAWN, Ohio—It will be awhile before the ACS Rubber Division stages its marquee event, the fall International Elastomer Conference, in Cleveland again.
That's because the Rubber Division has signed a contract to hold its next two odd-year fall technical meeting and exhibitions in Pittsburgh, said Edward Miller, the association's executive director. The odd-year IECs typically are the larger exhibitions, while the events held on the even years—formerly called "mini-expos"—are smaller with less attendees.
In recent years, the Rubber Division has held all of the odd-year conferences and expos in Cleveland, with the even-year sessions moved around to different venues. But Miller said the division will hold its IEC in Pittsburgh in both 2021 and 2023, with the fall 2021 event scheduled for Oct. 5-7 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.
Miller, who is retiring from his post in mid-January after 19 years as executive director, said the venue change is all about having to negotiate contracts. And that doesn't mean Cleveland won't be in the mix for fall IEC events in the future. Miller said he, Lakisha Miller-Barclay—who will succeed Miller as executive director—and Beth Berkheimer, exposition and future sites director, met with representatives of Positively Cleveland shortly before the recent IEC in October.
"We made it very clear that Cleveland is really a great place," Miller said. "It's shown to be a great place for the odd-year IECs. It brings in the most attendance. It's easy for a lot of the industry to get to because it's so close.
"We explained that we'd like to take a look again at negotiating contracts again with Cleveland. My personal belief is I love Pittsburgh too. It's a great venue. But I think facts are facts. Attendance is better in Cleveland because of the Northeast Ohio region."
Pittsburgh last hosted the odd-year expo in 2009, and both attendance and exhibitors were down sharply that year, he said, because of the Great Recession. The city hosted a successful even-year IEC in 2016.
Miller said in general the fall expos have rebounded nicely since the time of the recession. "They've come back," he said. "Nothing's ever going to be like it was in the 1980s and 1990s. That was a different rubber industry. But for the rubber industry today, considering where the industry was in the 2008-10 era and where it is today, it has evolved tremendously."
From an exhibit standpoint, Miller said the IECs are about where they were in 2007, while attendance is close. Realistically, an odd-year IEC can expect about 5,000 attendees, compared to about 3,900 to 4,000 during the recession, he said shortly prior to this year's event.
"Hopefully we're bringing in the right people," he said. "I've never believed in quantity. I believe in quality, and that's not a cliche. If you have 100 people look at your booth but none are potential customers, it's a better audience if you have two who are absolutely potential customers."