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INFORMEX® 2003 Review

Economy, Future Growth Take Center Stage at INFORMEX® 2003

The state of the economy and its prolonged effect on the growth of chemical manufacturing permeated the events of this year's INFORMEX®, the premier trade show connecting 453 custom chemical manufacturers and their customers. From February 25-28, the city of New Orleans hosted 4000 buyers and sellers of custom chemicals, who attended the event to conduct serious business. More than 250,000 square feet of the Morial Convention Center showcased the chemistry and latest technologies used by key sectors of the world's economy, such as agriculture, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, flavors and fragrances, paints and coatings, and adhesives and sealants.

A series of formal workshops, poster sessions and presentations, along with informal networking receptions, provided a forum for discussion of industry trends, new technologies and future business opportunities. Ed Fording, president of the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA), which produces INFORMEX®, says the show sets itself apart by offering a variety of opportunities to a variety of people. "Our attendees come to learn about the latest technologies and regulatory hurdles, as well as establish the face-to-face interaction that's crucial to being a serious player in the custom chemical industry."

"There is clearly real value in having a breadth of opportunities at one event," said Stuart Needleman, chairman of SOCMA's INFORMEX® Planning Committee and general manager of Rhodia's new Pharma Solutions Group. "It allows us to attract a wide variety of attendees, which increases the effectiveness of the show for everyone involved."

Economic concerns aired even before the official opening of the show, cash-conscious attendees learned about the financial impact of regulatory compliance in workshops with Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration officials on February 25. Consultants from Pittiglio Rabin Todd & McGrath were also sensitive to the bottom line by helping companies evaluate research and development (R&D) expenditures. Concerns over the economy were also aired at the afternoon's Networking Roundtables. In the keynote speech that evening, industry leader Andrew Liveris, president of Dow's Performance Chemicals Group, addressed the future of the chemical industry and the impact he expected the current economy to have on niche chemical manufacturers.

The impact of the economy, especially spiking natural gas prices, was also felt on the show floor. "Because of increases in gas prices I've been forced to spend a serious portion of my time here on the phone dealing with current clients," said one attendee. "We usually look to INFORMEX® to generate 70 percent of our new business for the coming year, so it certainly hurts to have a distraction from that goal." Another attendee echoed concerns about the economy's effects on the industry. "We're all hoping we're at the bottom already, but we have nothing but optimism to base that on," he said. "We're all at INFORMEX® looking to hit our next home run."

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