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Scrap processors, traders and the vendors who supply and equip them have been gathering at the annual convention of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) and its predecessor organizations since shortly after World War II.

In the 21st century, the gathering has expanded by several different measures, including the number of attendees, the size of the exhibit hall, the number of commodities covered by the programming and the number of nations represented on the attendee list.

The ISRI 2017 Convention & Exposition (ISRI2017), set for April 22-27 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, will bring together several thousand people looking for opportunities to talk, learn and conduct business during the course of the week.

Plugged in

In promotional materials for ISRI2017, the association urges potential attendees to “get plugged in” by attending the week-long event.

“We are making an effort to remind the industry that information is power in any business, but it is key to being ready as markets return,” says Chuck Carr, ISRI vice president of convention, meetings and education and training.

Current ISRI Chairman Mark Lewon, who is a principal and vice president of operations at Utah Metal Works in Salt Lake City, also refers to the rebounding state of scrap markets as a reason for him to be optimistic about attendance figures for the 2017 convention. “I think this is the time to consider the convention as an investment at the right time, after essentially two or three years of difficult markets,” Lewon says. To recyclers who might have missed the previous one or two conventions, he says, “It’s time to come out of hibernation!”

As it has for many years, ISRI will try to attract people to its convention with a combination of sessions and speakers drawn from the industry and beyond, an exhibit hall full of equipment and vendors, networking opportunities and receptions and tours of the host city for those who want to spend some time away from business matters.

Carr says ISRI will present “a full range of workshops designed to provide both general management information as well as commodity-specific topics that are timely and pertinent to today’s markets.”

While ISRI’s roots and much of its current focus continue to be tied to scrap metal, Carr says, “We are especially proud of programs being developed in the paper and plastics arenas and a track on MRF (material recovery facility) operations that tie many of these operations to the industrial recycling markets.”

Beyond recycling, ISRI again will use its general session time slots to bring in guest speakers to address broader topics. “On Tuesday (April 25), attendees will meet Amy Herman, an attorney and art enthusiast in New York,” says Carr. “She has developed a program that is used by law enforcement, medical professionals and others to help them improve their perception skills—and how to use these skills to their advantage in communicating—whether it be with customers, employees or others.”

At the general session time slot on Thursday morning, April 27, the guest speaker may be a familiar face to attendees who were fans of a highly rated cable television show that ran from 2005 to 2012.

“On Thursday, ISRI is proud to present the ever-popular Mike Rowe,” Carr says. “Many in the audience will recognize him from his work on the television series ‘Dirty Jobs,’” he adds, referring to the television series that ran for eight seasons on the Discovery Channel.

Carr refers to Rowe as an “actor, comedian, business entrepreneur, opera singer and so much more.”

He continues, “Mike speaks regularly about the country’s dysfunctional relationship with work, the widening skills gap and challenging the persistent belief that a four-year degree is automatically the best path for the most people.”

While listening and learning is part of the appeal of the ISRI convention, so is back-and-forth conversation, or networking, which ISRI says it strives to incorporate into the convention.

Veteran recyclers likely have their networking routines in place. Carr says ISRI wants to make sure those new to the industry quickly form their own networking habits. “ISRI is putting a greater emphasis on first-timer orientation,” he comments. “We want to help all guests make the connections they need with others in attendance and want to make a special effort to help newcomers fit in strongly and quickly.”

Among the places those conversations take place is the exhibit hall, whether at a Monday evening, April 24, reception planned there or at other breaks planned throughout the next two days.

For representatives of equipment and service providers that have been loyal to the ISRI convention for decades, the exhibit hall activity is a main reason to attend.

Staying in touch

ISRI was formed from the 1987 merger of two predecessor associations that had focused separately on ferrous and nonferrous scrap recycling.

Three decades later, many representatives of industry suppliers have been participating in conventions going back that far or they work for companies that have been serving the scrap industry since before that time.

These industry veterans—as well as younger colleagues who know only of the recent, bigger ISRI conventions—all consider this event an important week on the calendar to stay in touch with existing customers and to meet potential new ones.

Finland-based Metso makes and installs equipment lines with roots throughout Europe and North America, including the Texas Shredder line.

Metso’s Keith Carroll says the Texas Shredder brand has been represented at ISRI since its beginnings, “So we have 30-plus years of show experience.”

Metso has other scrap equipment veterans on its current staff, including shear and baler specialist Bob Pfeffer and Jim Stepanek, who has lengthy experience in the shredder and wear parts sector.

“The exhibit floor provides a good opportunity for existing customers and potential customers to meet and greet manufacturers,” Pfeffer says. “To get prospective customers into the booth to discuss applications and solutions by utilizing our equipment is a great opportunity,” he adds.

Pfeffer says exhibiting companies typically set up meetings and dinners in advance of the convention with current and prospective customers, but adds, “We always [meet] some valuable new contacts in the exhibit hall for new projects.”

Andreas Ernst of Stanley, North Carolina-based Sennebogen LLC says the firm “has been an exhibitor since 2001 [at an ISRI convention in San Antonio], and I personally have been at each show since then.”

Sennebogen LLC markets German-made scrap handling equipment to the North American market.

“In my opinion, this show is the best networking event in the scrap recycling industry,” Ernst says. “You probably don’t find this quality of attendees at other shows within that short period of time. Both the show floor and meeting customers after the show hours [provide] great [opportunities] to connect.”

Recycling software provider Shared Logic, Holland, Ohio, has been sending representatives to ISRI conventions “from the beginning and before, when ISRI was called something else,” says the firm’s Monte Porter. “I have been going since 2007.”

Porter says the show floor is where he most often connects with customers. Regarding whether those are existing or new customers, he comments, “Both, but we definitely see current customers more than potential new ones.”

The equipment providers say the ISRI convention also can provide a good setting for product launches, with Sennebogen presenting a “telematics system,” Shared Logic touting a new mobile dispatch app and Metso calling attention to its new N-Series products at this year’s convention.

For buyers, sellers, traders and information gatherers alike, organizers of ISRI2017 are making plans to serve as hosts for a week designed to increase scrap industry knowledge, productivity and profitability.

The author is editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted via email at btaylor@gie.net.