PCI just wrapped up our annual Coatings Trends & Technologies (CTT) conference in Lincolnshire, IL. We continue to see CTT grow, with 310 attendees (up 13% from 2013) and 60 exhibiting companies (up 11%). Co-sponsored by the Chicago Society for Coatings Technology, CTT featured 30 technical presentations and over seven hours of networking time with exhibitors.

The highlights for many in attendance were the two keynote addresses. On Day 1, we heard from Christopher Howard and Jennifer Turner from Evonik Corp. on the challenges and opportunities facing the coatings industry. Some of these include recruiting talent, retaining knowledge from a retiring workforce, industry globalization, technology shifts and the ever-changing regulatory landscape. 

Turner spoke at length about shale gas and U.S. industry reshoring. She discussed the United States’ large shale gas reserves – second only to China and of higher quality (higher ethane content) – and the potential impact they have on U.S. manufacturing. Shale gas feeds the ethane/ethylene value chain, and 96% of manufactured goods we use every day are based on building blocks made from ethane as a raw material. The shale gas impact on the U.S. coatings industry begins with capital improvement projects (some of which are already underway), and civil engineering and infrastructure projects. The mid- to long-term impact will be the release of pent-up demand on consumer goods like cars, electronics and appliances, and an improvement in the housing market – all of which bode well for the coatings industry.

Our Day 2 keynote speaker was Dr. Robert Fry, Senior Economist at DuPont. Dr. Fry discussed the outlook for the global economy in 2014 and 2015, with emphasis on industries of interest to the North American coatings industry. Among the topics discussed were GDP, industrial production, housing starts and home sales, motor vehicle sales, inflation, and interest rates. He also commented on the positive influence of shale gas on U.S. chemical industry capital investment. Dr. Fry noted that as of August 28, 197 capital investment projects have been announced to take advantage of shale, with $125 billion to be invested – 64% of which is foreign direct investment.

Here is some other interesting data from Dr. Fry's presentation:

  • Global industrial growth is stabilizing, and is around 3%.
  • U.S. GDP fell in Q1 (due to weather), but rebounded strongly in Q2. Industrial production is up 4.9% since last July.
  • Recovery has paused in continental Europe.
  • Growth has slowed in China since mid-2011.
  • Manufacturing in South America is declining and is back below 2008 levels.
  • Motor sales in August in the United States were the best since 2006.
  • Employment growth in the United States has picked up.
  • Housing recovery is slower than expected, but steady.

 We thank all who attended, exhibited and sponsored Coatings Trends & Technologies. We look forward to another successful event next year!