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SGIA 2009: N'awlins Opportunities

The annual expo -- to be held October 7-9 in New Orleans -- offers something for everyone.

This year, the Specialty Graphics and Imaging Association Expo  (SGIA) is swinging through New Orleans, offering big opportunities in The Big Easy. No matter your print
trade, the expo—to be held October 7-9 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center—has you covered.

Though New Orleans is often known as a town that can take its toll on the expense report, you don’t have to break the bank to experience the 2009 edition of the expo and
have a good time. SGIA understands the current financial crunch under which most print providers find themselves. Offering a handful of free educational sessions, SGIA believes attendees should use the event as a source to explore future opportunities.

“The SGIA community is on a positive track for future success, but it will be a fast and ever-evolving ride,” says Michael Robertson, SGIA’s president and CEO. “I encourage
you to stay informed and hold your position on the leading-edge as new opportunities emerge. You’ll see many new opportunities and the innovative technologies to make
them happen at the 2009 SGIA Expo.”

Application zones and inspiration
SGIA is projecting attendance at 15,000 people. Luckily, like the Crescent City, the SGIA Expo has something for everyone, and has created three special “Expert Advice Zones” for specific areas of applications/opportunities that print providers may want to explore:
The Graphics Application Zone, hosted by SGIA’s Professional Decal Application Alliance (PDAA), will showcase in-person demonstrations of graphics by vehicle-wrap
experts to various objects and surfaces: truck trailers, autos, tables, brick, glass, concrete, walls, and floors. Attendees will also be able to try their hand at various types
of install work, utilizing films, pressure-sensitive media, inks, etc.
• The latest apparel concepts will be on display in the Digital Apparel Production Zone, where technologies such as dye-sub, direct-to-garment inkjet, heat transfer, print-and-cut vinyl, drying, and more will be on display. Apparel experts will be on hand to provide
info on technology, profi ts, pricing models, tips and tricks, and more.
• There’s also the Digital Textile Finishing Zone, where attendees can meet leading industry suppliers and see digital textile-finishing concepts such as sewing, grommeting, seaming, edge-welding, trimming, and dye-sublimation transfer.

Looking for other opportunities and/or inspiration that can lead to shop profits? If interiors are your thing, there’s the Interior Design Display, where industry experts will
show off how they use their imaging abilities to print custom wallpaper, pillows, and tabletops.

Another option is to peruse the various award and competition areas. The Golden Image Gallery will showcase projects of industry-leading excellence in specialty
printing. SGIA allows members one free gallery entry for almost any type of imaged product, and with more than 40 categories, the gallery is a great way to observe the vast
talents of the specialty imaging industry. Category winners—including the Andre Schellenberg honors—will be named at the Golden Image Awards. In addition, the Parmele Award—SGIA’s highest honor—recognizes the ongoing commitment by an industry professional to advance specialty imaging’s products, services, or overall image; the Innovator Award recognizes industry professionals who have made a lasting impact on the industry; and the ASPT Student Awards Competition recognizes screen and digital-imaging projects by secondary or post-secondary school students.

Think you have what it takes? The Golden Image and Product of the Year Competition awards are accepting entries until September 25. Visit the SGIA website for application forms.

Gaining experience
SGIA is offering more than 50 educational sessions during the three-day expo, including three free Expert Panels Wednesday morning on digital graphics, garment decoration, and screen graphics.

Here’s a look at just a few of the other educational highlights:
2009 State of the Industry: Katy Sauër Lellelid, business information associate with SGIA, will analyze the latest industry stats.
Flatbed Economics – What Flatbed Press is Right for You?: Explores the fi nancial model to determine the appropriate time to add a flatbed or upgrade, and evaluates how the purchase decision impacts a shop’s bottom line. Led by Fujifilm Sericol’s Jeffrey Nelson.
Sourcing Sustainable Products: Why Is It So Difficult?: Laura Maybaum, graphics market segment manager for Nazdar, will highlight the lack of green products and information facing print providers and provide basic guidance.
High Volume Digital Print Production and Workflow Automation: Will focus on current trends in high-volume inkjet printing systems for the wide-format market, including
how technology enables higher-volume digital printing; workflow characteristics that are making the implementation of these systems successful; and types of applications
that are being produced by users of the equipment. Durst’s Christopher Howard and Michael Lackner will lead the session.
From Cottage to Mass to Micro: Micro Manufacturing for the New Economy: I.T. Strategies’ Patti Williams will give tips on niche markets and sustainable business models.
Pricing of Digital Graphics: A full print overview, including speeds, costs, inks, media, laminates, substrates, and finishing, led by David King of MarketKing; the session
will also examine sales and marketing side to help print shops land more clients.
The Challenge of a Complete Digital Workflow: Inca Digital’s Heather Kendle will provide an overview of the system components a print provider should consider when
installing digital-graphic capabilities.
Introduction to Color Management: Jeff Burton, digital print analyst for SGIA, will discuss color-management systems and software use, color profiling basics, color space/gamut, RGB versus CMYK, color-behavior management, color matching, and common color lingo.
Recycling 101: Brett Thompson with Laird Plastics and Theresa Vanna of Pace Industries will discuss successfully implementing a recycling program.
Neutral Gray Color Control for Screen and Digital Printers: A look at the effectiveness and speed neutral gray print density brings to digital printing and screenprinting, led by
Nazdar’s Mike Ruff .

Also, the keynote breakfast will be held on Thursday, October 8, from 8:30-10 a.m. in the convention center’s La Nouvelle Orleans Ballroom. Keynote speaker Marc Miller, CEO of Sogostics and author of Selling is Dead and A Seat at the Table, will present “Driving Revenue with New Selling Strategies,” which examines the skills, strategies,
mindset, and steps required for successful sales.

Exploring and networking
From 2007 through 2008, manufacturers/suppliers, print shops, and installers “adopted” New Orleans’ Canal Street and worked with SGIA to beautify the corridor from the Convention Center to the French Quarter. While you’re in town for the expo, you can see the results of this volunteer project, designed to heighten the street’s
visual impact by providing and installing large-format graphics featuring scenes of the city.

SGIA reports that print-provider participants included: Alabama Graphics (Birmingham, Alabama), Gillespie Graphics (Wilsonville, Oregon), Markley Enterprise (Elkhart,
Indiana), Miller-Zell (Atlanta), New Vista Image (Golden, Colorado), Pixus Digital Printing (Lafayette, Louisiana), Selecto-Flash (West Orange, New Jersey),
Stella Color (Seattle), and Vista Color Imaging (Cleveland). Vendor participants included: 3M Graphics Market Center, Alcan Composites, FlexCon, Gerber Scientific
Products, MacDermid ColorSpan and Nur America (both now part of HP), and Ultraflex Systems.

There are plenty of networking opportunities at the expo as well. You can kick off the expo on Tuesday, October 6, with some golf on the Gulf. The Stonebridge Golf Club will host the John M. Crawford Golf Tournament at 8 a.m., including a caddy shack party at the conclusion of the round. Cost: $140 for SGIA members, $160 for non-members.

And what’s New Orleans without some partying? Thursday, October 8, from 6:30-10 p.m., is the Crescent City Cocktails and Connections soiree. A $35 ticket gets you
into the Napoleon/Versailles Ballroom in the Hilton New Orleans Riverside for drinks and dinner, not to mention a night of networking.

Shaking off the doldrums
Still debating whether you want to make the trip? Consider these comments by SGIA’s Michael Robertson, which should serve as incentive:

“It’s time to shake off those recession doldrums and focus on the growing business opportunities in the imaging marketplace. The specialty-graphics community has more going for it than any other printer sector. Margins are certainly tighter since the recession hit, but specialty-graphics producers have avoided the commoditization trap mainly because of emerging technology.

“The continual flow of new and exciting capabilities has helped [print providers] increase their value to customers instead of needing to compete on price alone. And while the recession has slowed equipment sales, manufacturers have not slowed down R&D efforts. We’ll see lots of new technology at the 2009 SGIA Expo.”

For the Road Warrior
The New Orleans Morial Convention Center underwent a $20 million renovation this year. Physical improvements include i-coves (wi-fi hot spots) and an expanded wireless infrastructure of 10 gigabytes to keep you connected to your business while you’re working hard in The Big Easy. There are also plenty of aesthetic improvements, including new furniture and New Orleans artwork and photography throughout the building.

SGIA has a deal with Travel Planners to provide deals at hotels throughout the city. Visitors can book a room at the adjacent Hilton Garden Inn Convention Center, the nearby Wyndham Riverfront, or at any of the other 26 hotels on the partnership’s list. Visit sgia.org for more information.

Reopening this year after a $145 million renovation is the historic Roosevelt New Orleans hotel. The 116-year-old luxury hotel just joined the Waldorf Astoria Collection. It’s not on SGIA’s preferred list, but Elvis did stay there during the filming of King Creole.

One Insider's View
By John Maracich, owner of ExpoSigns in New Orleans

Here in New Orleans, we don’t have the kind of revolutionary and monumental signs you would find in New York or Las Vegas. We have a different style. The significance of the industry in New Orleans is more about the history and culture of the places here than the signs that adorn them.

That being said, there are things to see. For instance, any visitor should go to the French Quarter, where you’ll find signage documenting the history of New Orleans, but you’ll also find good eats. Hundred-year-old restaurants like Antoines, Tujagues, and New Orleans favorites like Brennan’s, Emeril’s, Pat O’Briens, and Mother’s all hearken
back to different periods in the city’s history.

New Orleans also has very different street signs in many of the older areas. Of course you’ll see the typical Vieux Carre street sign, but much signage is embedded in the concrete and tiles. Signage is paramount in New Orleans (and most Gulf Coast) casinos. The most impressive local casino “showpiece” sign is the Hard Rock Casino’s giant guitar, but the interiors have amazing signage as well. New Orleans is not like the opulent Las Vegas, but there is certainly a lot to note here.

It’s sad to see many of the buildings and homes in states of disrepair due to the impact of Katrina. Things are improving every day but a trip to the Ninth Ward, New Orleans East, or Chalmette will enlighten you on how devastating the storm was. The long-term effect should be positive for the city and surrounding area but, for now, there is a lot of work left to do.

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