Fighting the climate, weather-wise and business-wise

SME’s Eastec in May proved to be an uplifting experience

Th 0507ils Belforte

SME’s Eastec in May proved to be an uplifting experience

Spring never really arrived in New England this year. After a snowy winter we looked forward to the mild days of spring that draw many of us into outdoor pastimes. Didn’t happen. April was more like March, same for May. In a year with highest heating costs ever, furnaces kept running through to the last week in May.

In Massachusetts we experienced five weekend coastal storms in a row. We call them Nor’easters, because the winds rotate in off the ocean producing a backlash of up to three days of adverse weather.

So it wasn’t much of a surprise that we should experience one of these Nor’easters the week of Eastec, the annual Northeast technology show sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME). This particularly nasty storm produced cold wind-driven rain that should have placed a damper on attendance at this, the largest of all SME regional trade shows.

But it didn’t. Driving into the Eastern States Exhibition parking area, Managing Editor, Laureen Belleville and I were pleasantly surprised to be directed to the farthest extremes of the parking lot, a sign that attendance was strong on the second day of the show. Even the SME’s Express Registration desks were overwhelmed by early morning check ins. And as we entered the first of five buildings we were pleasantly overwhelmed by the crowds packing the aisles. After the show the SME reported attendance for three days at more than 15,000, a 10 percent increase over last year.

We’ve gone to a lot of Eastec shows and we are used to large volumes of attendees but this was over the top. Almost every exhibit had numerous visitors and many were packed with potential buyers who seemed to be intent on gathering the technical information needed for future purchases.

Exhibit personnel were extremely upbeat about the attendance and many told us that they believed the government’s efforts to spark the economy has finally taken hold, as evidenced by the high number of potential buyers they had been meeting.

At Eastec the aisles are fairly narrow allowing one to overhear random conversations from passersby. One theme seemed to be common, offshore competition. Recently this has been a mantra heard over and over at shows featuring products for manufacturing. At Eastec what we heard were people talking about ways-read this mainly as automation-to combat this business threat. And exhibitors have plenty of automation to show.

Here in New England we are used to adversity. Why else live here where the weather can be so miserable. For years jobs have been fleeing the Northeast for more beneficial climes, weatherwise and taxwise, ever since textiles moved south and the shoe industry moved to Brazil. We’ve relied heavily on Defense business to survive.

The Department of Defense recently announced that base closures in New England would total 80 percent of the jobs lost, with Connecticut (Groton) and New Hampshire (Portsmouth) taking the brunt of the Navy’s cuts. And yet we spoke with many suppliers of manufacturing services who said business was good and the future looked strong because of the diversity of customers in this region. Now this is what I call resiliency.

We New Englanders are rugged. Where else would you find people standing in line, outside in a windy rainstorm, to buy food from the vendor kiosks surrounding the buildings at Eastec? This is what I call fortitude.

Keep in mind those attending Eastec could have just as well stayed at work in such foul weather, but they didn’t and I think that speaks volumes for business prospects in the coming months.

Th 0507ils Belforte
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David A. Belforte
belforte@pennwell.com

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