Let's Wait Awhile

ANY DISCUSSION OF combining the solid waste industry's two highest-profile trade shows will have to wait. In June, the International Board of Directors of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) voted unanimously to defer consideration of consolidating the association's WASTECON show with WasteExpo. The WasteExpo trade show is owned by New York-based Primedia Business, which also owns Waste Age magazine.

John Skinner, executive director and CEO of Silver Spring, Md.-based SWANA, says the board deferred consideration because of uncertainty surrounding the future of ownership of WasteExpo. “A discussion of consolidation when the ownership of one of the shows is uncertain just doesn't make sense,” he says.

Primedia has announced that it is exploring the sale of its Primedia Business unit., which includes Waste Age and WasteExpo.

Rita Ugianskis-Fishman, group show director for WasteExpo, says SWANA's recent decision to defer consideration of a consolidation is understandable. Primedia is “open-minded” about consolidation talks out of a “desire to continue to serve the needs of our customers,” she says, but “I don't blame anyone for wanting to wait until the dust settles with regard to Primedia's current exploration of selling it's business-to-business unit.” However, the recent SWANA vote is not a huge setback for future discussions, she adds.

Several waste industry manufacturers and other vendors recently have been encouraging SWANA and Primedia to consider combining shows to help reduce the costs that they incur by exhibiting at both events. About 18 months ago, Mike Knaub, senior vice president and managing director of the waste technology division of Charlotte, N.C.-based Schaefer Systems International, a manufacturer of refuse and recycling containers, sent a survey to more than 700 exhibitors. Of the 176 responses, 82 percent supported combining the shows.

Going to both shows often is redundant for vendors, says Knaub, a former member of SWANA's executive board. “We show the same products, and we talk to the same people.”

Knaub appeared before SWANA's International Board at its June meeting in Boulder, Colo., and urged the board to form a committee to meet with Primedia representatives and to begin working toward a combined show. He argued that SWANA could continue to hold its opening reception and educational sessions at a consolidated show.

However, Jim Walsh, president and CEO of Long Beach, Calif.-based SCS Engineers, also spoke at the board meeting and said he would like to see the shows remain separate. “We see value in each,” he says.

WASTECON offers SCS a chance to meet with its public-sector clients, while WasteExpo allows the firm to see private-sector clients, Walsh says. A combined show could prove too big to meet with both, he fears.

Although the board did not follow Knaub's recommendation, it did form a committee to explore trade show partnerships with other organizations.