This Just In

Meat Packers in Deep Freeze but the Show Goes On

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR

Atlanta, GA – The weather in Atlanta was appropriately like a meat locker January 28 when the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) opened its doors at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) just a few hours before one of the worst Winter storms in the city’s memory roared into town.

While attendees and exhibitors from around the world networked, attended educational sessions, and perused the latest in meat-and-poultry packing machinery in the cozy convention center, Georgians were getting a freezing dose of misery on the icy roads usually reserved for Yankees.

“The show was already open by the time the snow started falling around noon,” said Mark Zimmerman, GWCC general manager.

SLEEPING ‘AT’ THE JOB

Zimmerman said he was among the many commuters who found themselves basically frozen in place at the end of the day. After some unproductive hours stuck in traffic, he turned around and spent the night in his office at the convention center.

The upside was that Zimmerman and many of his co-workers were on the job bright and early the next day as IPPE attendees arrived in shuttle buses that gingerly navigated the nearly deserted but still-treacherous streets of downtown.

“We can’t close,” Zimmerman told Trade Show Executive (TSE) “We were open yesterday and all day today.”

The impassable roads kept many IPPE attendees who live in and around the Atlanta area stuck at home, which show organizers said took a bite out of drive-in attendance. Actual attendance figures are not available yet but preregistration was roughly 28,000, said Gwen Venable, vice president of communications for the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association.

“We also had some buses that were not able to get into Atlanta from other counties and states, which would have brought in approximately 300 additional attendees,” Venable told TSE. “So, we did see an impact on attendance.”

Some speakers were unable to fly into Atlanta; however, remote video and audio links allowed their presentations to be piped into the GWCC on schedule.

IPPE covered more than 410,000 net square feet this year with 1,148 exhibitors.

FROZEN IN PLACE

Global Experience Specialists (GES) said its shows were not affected by the storm, although some of their offices in icy areas were closed in the interest of the safety of their employees.

Freeman said its branch offices throughout the South faced challenges from the weather. Ted Haefele, general manager of the company’s New Orleans operations, was in the middle of move-out of the National Automobile Dealers Association Convention & Expo and had to close the office and find hotel rooms for his workers who couldn’t make it home.

In Savannah, the Georgia Music Educators Association found itself juggling the schedule for its 2014 In-Service Conference January 30 to February 1but nonetheless assured attendees that the opening-day agenda on Thursday remained intact aside from morning sessions being moved to later in the day.

The foul weather around Atlanta eased as the week wore on, which enabled Zimmerman and the rest of the GWCC to make it home. The warming trend also allowed the next event after IPPE – the American Meteorological Society’s Annual Meeting — to move into the GWCC without difficulty over the weekend.

Reach Mark Zimmerman at (404) 223-4000 or mzimmerman@gwcc.com