Waste Expo!

by Don Boudreaux on April 6, 2006

in Environment

My family and I just returned from Las Vegas.  We emigrated there for five days.  Fortunately for the Vegas natives, we took no jobs from them while there and we spent (if not gambled) rather freely.  Unfortunately for the Vegas natives, we added to the congestion of the government-supplied infrastructure — for example, contributing to Vegas’s road and airport congestion.  And because we don’t gamble, we were carriers of an alien culture that, if it took root in that desert town, could change it fundamentally.

Anyway, in Vegas we were.  Karol and I were there for the annual meeting of the Association of Private Enterprise Education (APEE); Thomas (our soon-to-be-nine-year-old son) was there because he very, very, very much wanted to see the fountains at Bellagio and the Luxor Hotel pyramid.

There’s much to say about Vegas — but here I want only to record that just as our conference was ending, another and much larger conference was starting: Waste Expo ’06.

Our hotel sat across a large parking lot from the Las Vegas Convention Center.  On that massive building was hung prominently and proudly a big blue banner with the words "Welcome Waste Expo."  (The Fly Bottle’s Will Wilkinson, also in attendance at the APEE meetings, first brought my attention to this banner.)

The cabbie who drove us yesterday to the Las Vegas airport reports that 20,000 people are expected to attend this conference on waste disposal and management.  (Cab companies have quite accurate information about such matters, by the way.)

I don’t know much about Waste Expo, but perusing its webside makes clear that its exhibitors are mostly private firms in the business of supplying goods and services that improve humankind’s ability to manage and dispose of waste.  These firms, therefore, represent literally millions of people working directly in the business of helping to make our world cleaner and more safe.  And the vast majority of these people aren’t "activists," or government bureaucrats, or anything other than ordinary men and women who earn their livings helping the rest of us dispose of waste.

So with enterprise, it’s not "garbage in, garbage out"; it’s "garbage in, cleanliness out."

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{ 8 comments }

Half Sigma April 6, 2006 at 9:32 am

Expos tend to be an example of negative sum rent seeking behavior. Waste expo indeed.

Don Boudreaux April 6, 2006 at 9:41 am

Why the contempt for Waste Expo? The event strikes me — judging from its website — as a place for suppliers and buyers of waste-disposal equipment and procedures to meet each other and to learn about the newest techniques and products available.

Rent-seeking takes place in Washington, not Vegas.

Half Sigma April 6, 2006 at 11:22 am

I couldn't resist the pun. Sorry.

bbartlog April 6, 2006 at 11:28 am

Certainly not rent-seeking. I think the question for Half Sigma would be – if you had an interesting new product in this space, how would *you* market it more effectively than by showing it at this expo?The whole expo phenomenon is fascinating. It represents a three-way compromise between marketers, buyers, and the employees they send. Buyers and sellers might both prefer a cheaper event (call it a seminar) if all that were involved were the exchange of product information. But this would be dull and few employees would want to go. So instead, a large element of entertainment is added and a venue like Vegas is chosen. As a result, being sent to an expo is usually regarded as a privilege or benefit (especially for employees of the buyers) and can be used as a reward by companies even as it provides benefits to them. It's also possible to assess the competency, stnading and product offerings of competitors in a way not possible elsewhere(did they get their booth together in time? Are their presenters good? How much were they able to spend on the booth space? Any surprising new products?).
I've never seen any method as good as a popular expo booth for generating qualified sales leads. At a telecom expo I attended a few years back I think we got about eight hundred business cards of interested parties – and this was for a highly specialized software product.
So don't knock it too hard. It may seem like a carnival but that's an essential part of its function :-)

Half Sigma April 6, 2006 at 4:19 pm

I said I was sorry, I just thought it was punny to point out how the expo was a "waste."

We live in a marketing economy, and companies prosper not by having better products, but by creating the PERCEPTION that they have better products.

John Pertz April 6, 2006 at 4:39 pm

Half Sigma said:

"We live in a marketing economy, and companies prosper not by having better products, but by creating the PERCEPTION that they have better products."

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ive discovered half sigma's true identity, say hello to Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein! If you could pull your head away from "Manufactured Consent" and "No Logo" you may see that G.M and other similar American firms are presently going out of business for reasons not due to a lack of advertising expenditures.

Chris Myers April 6, 2006 at 4:51 pm

I was also in town during the APEE conference, and one of the most intriguing stories I ran across while in Vegas was the Vegas Monorail (http://www.lvmonorail.com ).

While the monorail has run into recent trouble (http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2006/Feb-11-Sat-2006/news/5833357.html ), its funding is an intriguing story.

The $650 million system was funded with private bonds by businesses fed up with congested traffic on the Strip (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/02/19/BUGL153H821.DTL&type=business ).

Unfortunately, the managers lobbied for, and got, special tax favors, and are now looking for public funds to expand. Still, it makes for an interesting case study.

bbartlog April 6, 2006 at 5:48 pm

Half Sigma –
sorry, I missed your reply while I was typing and was too dense to realize you were just making a play on words :-P

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