ICE Review

By David Savastano, Kerry Pianoforte and Christine Canning Esposito | August 10, 2005

Maybe it was a case of low expectations, but the turnout at ICE 2003 in Philadelphia last month surprised many. Could the show�s performance be a bellwether for next year�s event in Chicago and the coatings industry in general?

It's fair to say that expectations were not high for this year's International Coatings Expo (ICE) in Philadelphia, considering the economy, the location and a modified format that opened the show. ICE opened at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 12, followed by a "block party" on the show floor with live music from a mummers-style band and a 1960s girl-band (the Shangri-La's), as well as complimentary food and beverages.

Show attendees filled the aisles shortly after ICE opened in Philadelphia.
Reactions from attendees and exhibitors were mixed before the block party began. Some exhibitors felt traffic during the show's opening was better than expected, while others lamented the late start and the loss of valuable sales time had there been an earlier start. However, attendance seemed quite strong, attendees seemed to enjoy the lively opening and the show floor remained crowded until the exhibition closed at 8:00 p.m. that night.

Traffic also appeared to be heavy during the second day, which was the first full-day of activities. As expected, the final day's traffic was slow, and even though FSCT extended the show hours to 3:00 p.m. from the normal noon-time closing, the hall was virtually void of attendees after lunch.

Despite that, the Federation of Societies for Coatings Technology (FSCT) officials-and exhibitors Coatings World spoke with-were pleased with ICE overall, and said the event had been a success.

"The show has exceeded our expectations in attendance, energy and the comments we have received from exhibitors and attendees alike," said Bob Ziegler, FSCT's executive vice president. "The attendance figures I have seen show that Philadelphia is every bit as successful as New Orleans, and it is bringing in regional manufacturers who don't usually have the ability to attend ICE."

"I was pleased with the excitement and interest," said Dick Mullen, former FSCT president. "It seemed everybody had a smile on their face as the show started."

In terms of exhibitors, this year's ICE was up from last year's show in New Orleans, with 279 companies exhibiting, 18 more than in 2002. The actual floor space, however, was down.

As for attendance, Mr. Ziegler noted that the International Coatings Technology Conference portion of ICE had more than 500 attendees, a significant increase over the past three years, and that overall attendance was "comparable" to last year's New Orleans ICE. As for final attendees numbers, FSCT said this year's show drew 6,237 attendees.

Exhibitor Response
For many exhibitors, ICE 2003 appeared to be a good show.

"I think everybody's expectations for Philadelphia were lower, but the traffic has actually been excellent," said Bob Burk of King Industries. "We're very happy about the show."

That sentiment was echoed by John Du of Byk Chemie. "I think the show has worked out quite well. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of attendees and in comparison to previous ICE shows, there are more technical inquiries."

Equipment manufacturers are often a bellwether of how the paint industry is faring, and those companies at ICE said they were hearing the right things.

"The show's been a pleasant surprise," said Dave Peterson of Eiger Machinery. "It's been a great turnout. People seem to be hungry for information again."

Likewise, Netzsch also heard positive inquiries. "It's been an excellent show," said Randy Smith. "It seems from the questions we've heard that companies are looking to invest in capital improvements again."

Raw material suppliers also noted that their customers seemed more positive. "There's a lot of optimism out in the market," Mr. Burk said.

"Most of the people we have spoken with have been optimistic about how business looks," said Al Tuccio of Sartomer. "The outlook is certainly better than last year."

On the whole, attendees also liked the block party festivities which helped start the show.

"Traffic has been phenomenal," said Bob McGregor of Brookfield Engineering. "I liked the opening night because it had a high energy to it. Everybody was primed at the starting time, and the open bar and food made it very festive."

Chicago in 2004
Next year, ICE moves back to Chicago, marking its last time as an annual event. ICE will be held at McCormick Place, Oct. 27-29, with the 82nd annual meeting of FSCT and the International Coatings Technology Conference also scheduled.

"We're looking forward to returning to Chicago and we are anticipating the industry's support, especially considering ICE will not occur after 2004 for another two years," said Mr. Ziegler.

  There were many familiar faces at this year's ICE show. Some of the exhibitors on hand were, clockwise from left, King Industries, Degussa, Heubach and ADM.

The return to Chicago also marks a return to hosting ICE in the same city around the same time as the annual meeting of the National Paint and Coatings Association (NPCA), which will be held at the Palmer House Hilton, Oct. 24-26.

The every-other-year format is, of course, a major change for the FSCT, and allows the show to alternative with the successful European Coatings Show, held in Nuremberg.

However, there are even more changes looming for the FSCT and its member societies. Topics such as membership and reaching out to more constituents are also on the agenda in the coming years.

Richard Hille, vice president of operations for The Flood Company, took over as FSCT president on Nov. 14, and he said there is much to prepare for the future.

"Our greatest strength and our greatest weakness is that we are all volunteers who have full-time jobs," Mr. Hille said. "We are so diverse and we govern by consensus, and there is a fear of becoming gridlocked. It is an even bigger challenge to get the volunteers to be able to carve out the time. I am gratified that we are making major changes."

  Exhibitors and entertainers at ICE: Sartomer (below), Troy Corp. (right) and the Shangri-La's (left), the 1960s singing group who entertained ICE attendees at the block party.  

Mr. Ziegler noted the possible changes ahead. "The Federation is dealing with a variety of changes in the industry, and the latest decisions by the board address these changes in a very positive way," he said.

Perhaps the most critical problem facing the Federation is the ICE Show's every-other-year format, beginning with the fact that opinions were split on the decision. Another concern was the fact that ICE subsidizes much of the FSCT's activities.

"It had became quite apparent that our industry could no longer support an annual ICE," Mr. Hille said. "There were vendors who told us that trade shows were not the most cost-efficient way to service their customers, while others said ICE was the only way to reach their customers."

The FSCT formed an events steering committee which has come up with some possibilities such as off-year conferences focused on other aspects of the industry, including manufacturing processes.

"The committee has proposed conducting numerous regional programs that will feature focused technical conferences and also incorporate opportunities for vendors to exhibit," Mr. Ziegler said. "This will allow smaller suppliers to promote their products in between ICE shows."

While specific details are still on the drawing board, Mr. Hille said FSCT is looking "to offer more micro-focused events, which could be the venue to have vendors meet with focused groups."

Mr. Hille added that a decision needs to be reached on how to maintain the International Coatings Technology Conference, which is held before ICE. He noted that conference attendees would most likely continue to come even if there were no ICE Show.

With the change in ICE and the slow U.S. economy FSCT leadership has been dealing with the question as to how to better service FSCT members while maintaining financial viability. Mr. Hille said that one way the FSCT is responding is by proposing changes to membership structure.

"There is no doubt in my mind that there are some individuals in our 5,000-member group who are more interested in participating in their local group, and their society's leaders are concerned about their members. I can certainly identify with that," Mr. Hille said. "However, there's another constituency that's only interested in the national level, who can't attend a local society.

It's been a bit of a gut-wrencher for us, but we have decided that we will not require dual membership but will allow people to join either the Federation or their local society, or both as they wish," Mr. Hille said. "It's such a diverse group out there, and I think our societies and the Federation are starting to think broader. We are a holistic community, and we should always be collaborative." Ultimately, Mr. Hille said that the FSCT and its societies will have to meet the needs of its members.

"It is imperative for each of our societies and for the Federation to provide relevance to its respective constituencies," Mr. Hille said. "In the past, I have been frustrated that we have had a lot of good ideas but not put them into action. What is fulfilling is that we are now taking unprecedented actions, and we need everyone to be patient with these changes. We can never, ever be satisfied, and we have to continue to reexamine our relevance. It is an exciting time-I'm seeing some minds changing."

-David Savastano, Kerry Pianoforte and Christine Canning Esposito contributed to this story.

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