Feature

Tips for Navigating NPE

What's new at North America's largest plastics event? Faster shuttles to the show, new seminars on current business issues, and passports recommended for the border.


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May 1, 2003 by Cindy Macdonald

12.9 hours. That’s how long the average visitor spends at NPE, according to the show’s official web site. Allowing for two half-hour lunch breaks, that means 11.9 hours on your feet, walking the length and breadth of one million sq. ft. of exhibit space. No wonder it all blurs together by Day Two.

To cover the whole show in 12 hours, a person would have to see 84,000 sq. ft. per hour, which is about equal to a mid-size factory. So it seems theoretically possible to see it all, but as anyone who’s been there knows — that’s only in theory.

In reality, you have to read up on exhibitors ahead of time, pick what you want to see, and plan a route. Leave time to browse, catch up with old friends and make new ones.

If you haven’t been to NPE before, keep a floor plan handy when planning appointments. Walking from the far corner of the East Building to your next destination in the South Hall is not a three-minute adventure.

The good news is, after all that walking and carrying literature, you can stop for a massage. The Massage Break Lounge is located in the Grand Concourse, and offers ten- and 30-minute sessions. Do you suppose that counts as a business expense?

Speaking of carrying literature and other things, public lockers are available on-site too. They are located on level 2, West Corridor, of the Lakeside Centre, and on level 1 of the South Building.

A few other good-to-know services: There’s an ATM machine in each building. Business Centres in each building offer a range of services, from computer rental to fax services, mailing and shipping. For international visitors like us, the International Centre at McCormick Place provides a lounge, private meeting rooms and a currency exchange.

GETTING ACROSS THE BORDER

At last check in April, U.S. authorities did not require that Canadians carry a passport to cross the border, but Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade strongly urges all Canadians travelling to the United States to obtain and carry a Canadian passport. “It is the only document that conclusively proves that you are a citizen of Canada with the right to return to Canada,” says DFAIT.

That said, if you don’t already have a passport, get cracking. The Passport Office cites standard processing times ranging from four weeks (20 working days) for a mailed application (not counting mailing time) to 10 working days if you drop it off in person at a regional office, to two days for people willing to pay extra fees and able to justify why they require the express service.

GETTING TO YOUR HOTEL

There are a few options for getting from O’Hare International Airport to hotels in downtown Chicago, ranging in price from US$1.50 to more than US$30.

Chicago Transit Authority trains (the “L”) will cost you US$1.50 and take about 45 minutes. Just follow the signs that read “Trains to the City” and purchase a transit card from the vending machines.

Airport shuttles are another alternative. Cost is about US$17.50, travel time 40 minutes. Expect to pay anywhere from US$26 to US$30 for a taxi from O’Hare to downtown. Again, travel time is about 40 minutes.

GETTING TO THE SHOW

Here’s good news about NPE’s free shuttle bus service that veterans of previous shows will appreciate: A new roadway solely for express bus service between McCormick Place and city hotels will dramatically reduce the travel time of the free shuttle trip. No promises about the line-ups though.

The two-way roadway reduces the trip from the farthest hotel ( the Drake Hotel) to McCormick Place to less than 20 minutes. Previously, in rush hour, the trip could take 30 to 40 minutes.

WHAT TO DO AFTER HOURS

Lady Luck is smiling on baseball fans in town for NPE. The Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox play each other on both the weekend leading into NPE week and the weekend following the show. During the week the Cubs play Milwaukee on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. You can check the schedules and order tickets online at www.chicagocubs.com and www.chicagowhitesox.com.

Plus, there’s a baseball exhibit at the Field Museum.

There’s also lots happening in Grant Park, the huge downtown waterfront park within walking distance of many hotels. The Grant Park Music Festival presents free concerts at an outdoor bandshell June 20, 21, 25, 26, 27 and 28. Beginning June 27 is a ten-day festival called a Taste of Chicago.This event includes live music, cooking demonstrations, a wine garden and fare from local restaurants. Check the events calendar at www.meetinchicago.com for more details.

For live blues and jazz music, check a local events guide once you get to Chicago.

GETTING EDUCATED

Educational opportunities at NPE run the gamut from breakfast seminars to full-day, in-depth conferences. The NPE 2003 conference is free to registered attendees of the show. These half-hour sessions run concurrently with the show in rooms adjacent to the exhibit floor. They are produced by the Society of Plastics Engineers. Visit www.npe.org/education for a complete list of topics and speakers.

“The NPE 2003 conference will cover topics chosen because of their current importance to business and engineering decision-makers at plastics processing companies,” explains Lesley Kyle, SPE’s senior event manager. “Less technically detailed than papers delivered at ANTEC, the presentations at NPE 2003 will serve as management briefings for those with a need to know about emerging technologies, pressing issues, or business trends that affect strategic planning.”

Also produced by SPE is a series of one- and two-day seminars on management topics plus technical fundamentals and advanced discussions on various processes, including injection molding, extrusion, blow molding and thermoforming. Information on these is available at www.4spe.org.

SPI, the Society of the Plastics Industry, will also offer programs addressing current regulations and trends. Topics include ergonomics, machine safety, tips on energy conservation, China and the global economy, and food and drug packaging.

There are a number of other privately-produced events running through the week as well.

A PARTING THOUGHT

NPE makes a sizeable contribution to Chicago’s economy. This year, 90,000 visitors are expected for the show. In 2000, the exposition was estimated to have provided the city with revenues of US$150 million. If spending is consistent this year, that works out to about US$1667 per visitor.


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