Organizers of the annual meeting of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, which begins today at the Los Angeles Convention Center, are counting on the war with Iraq to have an effect on their event. Known as Westec, the confab typically draws tens of thousands.
"In terms of war, that's when the manufacturing sector kicks in," said Irene Spanos, an advertising specialist with the Dearborn, Mich.-based society. "The sector has been down for years now. With the war, I think there will be a lot of opportunity for growth."
As of Saturday night, none of the 600 exhibitors showcasing their products and equipment had pulled out. Moreover, nearly 90% of the 24,000 preregistered attendees live within a 200-mile radius of Los Angeles, and were expected to show up because of minimal travel concerns, organizers said. Several international participants flew in at least a week in advance to transport heavy equipment for the expo.
In recent weeks, as war seemed imminent but its start date was unknown, the organization's marketing department called and e-mailed exhibitors and attendees to assure them that the confab would go on, said spokeswoman Barbara Gaston.
Liz Pape, 23, of Atlanta, was one exhibitor who had no thoughts about dropping out of the trade show. But then again, she didn't have much of a choice.
Despite concerns about the war, Pape said her company, Atlanta-based ManufacturingQuote, made a decision to keep traveling to out-of-state meetings. Pape said she will be attending nine more conventions before the end of June.
"If it was for pleasure, I would have canceled, but it was for work, so I didn't even bother asking them to reconsider," Pape said.