Chemical engineers might spend $8.5M in Pittsburgh
The world's premier conference for chemical engineers could generate $8.5 million in spending, according to VisitPittsburgh, despite a wet and windy welcome.
“If it comes in at that, it will be one of our biggest conferences of the year,” said Craig Davis, CEO of the tourism bureau.
The American Institute of Chemical Engineers' annual meeting began Sunday and continues through Friday. Organizers expect it to draw more than 6,000 people to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown. More might have come had Hurricane Sandy not hit.
“The storm is impacting us,” said Jeffrey Wood, meetings director for the New York City-based organization, which has more than 40,000 members in 90 countries. “Some people can't get here.”
Airlines canceled nearly 10,000 flights and Amtrak scrapped East Coast service on Monday because of the hurricane.
The conference drew 5,750 people in Minneapolis last year and Philadelphia in 2008, organizers said.
“The fact that with a hurricane we still have a shot at the record is good,” Davis said.
Attendees will concentrate on clean energy technology, and they'll cover a wide-ranging list of topics during more than 800 breakout sessions — a record number that likely contributed to the high turnout, Wood said.
“I'd like to think Pittsburgh had a part in it, because it now has a great reputation,” said Wood, who organized 15 of the group's annual meetings and said he would not have considered Pittsburgh until visiting several years ago. “I was very impressed with it. I took it back and said we're coming here.”
The institute last met in Pittsburgh about 100 years ago, about the time the group was founded in 1908, Wood said.
The city has earned a reputation as an energy center — a draw for chemical engineers, said the group's marketing director, Tim McCreight.
“And on a national level, energy policy and energy is bigger than ever,” he said.
Ahmed Ismail, 35, and six other graduate students on Sunday drove to Pittsburgh from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. The decision to drive was a nod to the weather and finances.
Ismail had just one complaint after two days: too many sessions happening at once.
“It can be very frustrating,” said Ismail, a New Jersey native who works in Aachen, Germany. “But it's a good sign. It means there are lots of people doing work you want to see.”
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.