With reports of what seems like political paralysis in Washington, D.C., this week over government spending and budgets, it might be instructive to look just a week and a half back to the release of the CEIR Predict report.
In its annual report on tradeshow performance, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research released a forecast for the next few years that is quite different in format from any it has ever released before: It includes an alternative scenario building into the equation what might happen if the two parties in Congress and the President—all three seeming to work at three or four loggerheads today—can actually come to a “grand bargain” in the near future.
The details are not necessarily important at this point (and you can get them from CEIR yourself), but the difference it makes for the exhibitions industry between the two scenarios—one in which the spending cuts called for by the full sequester (perhaps made worse if the federal government were, in some form, to shut down next week) and one in which even just 50 percent of the current spending cuts are restored—is, to me, astounding.
If Washington can resolve this dilemma this week, it’s possible growth in the tradeshow industry would amount to 2.1 percent this year and 2.7 percent next year. If not, the growth rate is closer to 1.1 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.
According to CEIR economists, that translates to a difference of nearly $100 million in revenue this year for the tradeshow industry and half a billion dollars over the next three years—and that’s even before you get to the industries our tradeshows serve!
Earlier in my career, I spent many years covering politics and government. It led me to my current jaundiced belief that it doesn’t really matter who is in charge in Washington, D.C., or your state capital, because the same thing is going to happen no matter what: There’s a crisis; who ever is mostly in charge—Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives—comes up with a solution that the other side resists; the solution is executed; and the crisis is resolved pretty much as it would have been even if the alternative solution had been executed.
The only difference is how it’s done, not whether it’s done.
This current dilemma, however, seems different to me, and not just because the conflict has taken on overtones that go so far beyond contrary visions and ideologies. The immediate consequences, as I mentioned above, are so extreme.
CEIR’s forecast indicates that, if a crisis can be averted in the next week or two, capital expenditures—by your shows’ attendees— will increase by 10.6 percent this year. If not, the growth is closer to 5.9 percent. With a successful resolution, gross domestic product is predicted to grow 2.6. percent; without one, 1.5 percent.
While I believe, as most of you do, that tradeshow performance is tied directly to external economic forces, for the first time I am concerned that government action—or inaction—can have an impact on how this industry works its way through a recovery over the next couple of years.
And that’s disturbing.
Michael Hart is executive editor of Expo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.