Why WasteExpo Moved Back to the Spring

WasteExpo's managers recently decided to keep their future shows in the Spring, reversing an decision made a couple of years ago to move the 2001 event into the Fall. Waste Age met with show director, Rita Ugianskis to discuss why and how this decision was made.

WA: Why did WasteExpo originally plan to move to the Fall?

RU: A few years ago, a strategic taskforce evaluated how WasteExpo could better serve its customers. Based upon research at that time, they concluded that customers would be better served if WasteExpo moved from the Spring to the Fall. As a result, management booked Atlantic City in October 2001 and Las Vegas in Fall 2002.

WA: What's happened between then and now?

RU: A lot. First, WasteExpo and Waste Age magazine were sold to Intertec in January 1999. The 1999 WasteExpo in Dallas, while owned by Intertec, really was the success of the EIA show team. Immediately following the 1999 WasteExpo in Dallas, we conducted an extensive market research study of both our attendees and exhibitors. We wanted to get baseline information about our customers likes and dislikes about WasteExpo. One of the questions we asked was, "what month would you prefer WasteExpo?"

The results overwhelming indicated that Quarter 2 - April, May, June - was the preferred time of the year from both the exhibitor and attendee studies. This information was brought to WasteExpo's sponsors, the Environmental Industry Associations (WASTEC & NSWMA) and Waste Age magazine. It was collectively decided that these results could not be overlooked even if they did contradict the results from the Strategic Task Force a few years earlier.

WA: How did you find a new home on such short notice?

RU: With such short notice between these conversations and the 2001 show scheduled for the Fall in Atlantic City, it was difficult to find a home with Spring dates. Our first call was to Atlantic City. We explained the situation and asked if they had Spring dates available. Unfortunately Atlantic City did not have Spring dates for 2001 and we were forced to look for another city.

We didn't have many options because WasteExpo is such a large show. However, we were able to find April dates in Chicago for 2001. We had two options: early April in the South Building which would allow the entire exhibit hall to be on one level, or late April but this would require the exhibits to be split between upper and lower levels. We believe that all customers are best served if the exhibits are on one level.

We tentatively asked Chicago to hold these dates for us, even if they were earlier in the year than most of us would prefer. Las Vegas was able to accommodate our request for Spring dates in 2002 so WasteExpo will remain there as originally planned.

WA: Why Chicago?

RU: We are well aware of the problems at the last WasteExpo in Chicago in 1998. Many exhibitors have said that they had a great show in Chicago. Unfortunately, there also were a lot of companies which either got kicked out of their hotel rooms because of the NBA Playoffs or had a terrible time with the unions - something Chicago has been famous for.

At the Exhibitor Advisory Committee meeting that was held at WasteExpo 1999 in Dallas, the Committee made it very clear that they did not want WasteExpo ever to go back to Chicago. A few months after that, the Advisory Committee met at the WASTEC Fall Meeting and appeared to soften its opinion on Chicago and expressed that they would consider that city as an option for WasteExpo. All exhibitors were sent copies of that Advisory Committee meeting.

Hotel and union situation aside, Chicago always has been a strong venue for WasteExpo.

Knowing the problems that existed for WasteExpo 1998, we never would present Chicago as an option to both WasteExpo's sponsors and Advisory Committee, if we didn't believe that the situation in Chicago was dramatically different than it has been in the past.

WA: Is Chicago different now?

RU: Yes. Until recently, Chicago had the largest convention center in the United States to serve the needs of America's trade show powerhouses. Because Chicago also is centrally located, it was a logical choice for many trade show organizers. However show organizers and exhibitors alike were forced to deal with union problems and expenses not confronted in other cities.

Then, many U.S. cities expanded their convention facilities and as a result, Chicago received a wakeup call as some show organizers pulled their shows out of the city because they had a good option. Las Vegas has replaced Chicago as the No. 1 city in the United States for trade shows - a distinction Chicago has long held.

As more trade shows threatened to abandon Chicago, Major Daley's anger convinced labor unions, hotel operators and others in the trade show industry to improve service and reduce fees. Show organizers across the board now report that there is an overwhelming difference in Chicago compared to what it was like in the mid-1990s.

Some of the changes to Chicago include electrical savings, more affordable overtime, relaxed work rules, a unified work force, improved parking and more efficient bus service.

The majority of committee participants endorsed both the move to the Spring and to Chicago. While some did express that Chicago was not the preferred site, they understood that we were limited in options at this late date, and that moving the show back to the Spring was of utmost importance.

WA: What's next?

RU: We are drawing the floorplan for WasteExpo 2001 in Chicago now, and we will send it to exhibitors before the upcoming 2000 event in Atlanta. Also, a representative from Chicago will be at WasteExpo in Atlanta to answer questions and address concerns.