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SOCMA reenters the trade show business with acquisition of Texas event

Specialty chemical association seeks to fill a gap created by the sale of its Informex event 15 years ago

by Rick Mullin
September 2, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 34

Photo of folks chatting at a small trade show booth in a hotel ballroom.
Credit: Chemicals America
Attendees connected at the Specialty & Custom Chemicals America trade show in February.

The Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates (SOCMA) has acquired the Specialty & Custom Chemicals America trade show, held in Fort Worth, Texas, by event organizer Chemicals America. The acquisition marks the specialty chemical trade organization’s reentry into the trade show business after selling its Informex event in 2005.

The Fort Worth exposition, which took place in February of this year, will be renamed the Specialty & Custom Chemicals Show, according to SOCMA CEO Jennifer Abril.

“I don’t think SOCMA really appreciated the role we played in connecting the industry,” Abril says of the decision to sell Informex to UBM, a large trade show organizer. “But the consensus at the time from the board leadership was that it had overtaken the capacity for a trade organization to manage.”

Indeed, what started at an Atlanta hotel in 1985 with tabletop displays by association members had grown to fill large exhibit spaces. There were 4,100 attendees and 478 booths when SOCMA hosted its last Informex at the Venetian Las Vegas hotel.

The show in Fort Worth, which featured small booths in hotel ballroom space, had about 200 booths and 1,270 attendees last February.

UBM, now Informa, ran Informex annually until 2017 when it combined the event with CPhI North America, another of its trade shows focused on the fine and pharmaceutical chemical sector.

Chemicals America launched its first trade show, Specialty & Agro Chemicals America, at a hotel in Wilmington, North Carolina, in 2012, moving it to Charleston, South Carolina, in 2014.

The Fort Worth show, with less emphasis on agricultural chemicals, was launched in response to the waiting list of 75 companies interested in exhibiting in Charleston, according to Chemicals America head Tom Leahy.

“A normal trade show company might have moved from a hotel to a convention center,” says Leahy, who describes his firm as a one-person shop. “I thought if we did that, we lose the intimate networking.” He also saw the Fort Worth event as an opportunity to tap into the Houston-area chemicals market.

Leahy worked on the Fort Worth show with SOCMA, which organized conference sessions and hosted a pre-event dinner. “This has been in the works for quite some time,” Abril says of the deal between SOCMA and Chemicals America.

Jay Dickson, president of Nation Ford Chemical and a SOCMA board member, welcomes the association’s return to hosting a trade event. “For years, SOCMA was about networking. That was the initial value companies were seeking from SOCMA,” he says. “Tom Leahy built a great show in Fort Worth. I’m glad that SOCMA can run a trade show now and make it their own.”

The Specialty & Custom Chemicals Show is scheduled to take place in Fort Worth from Feb. 9-11, 2021.



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