From The Editor

SMU President and CEO John Packard delivers the opening remarks at Steel Summit 2018, held Aug. 27-29 in Atlanta. (Photo by Jonathan Samples)

Steel Summit Takes Top Spot in Conference Lineup

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My career in the metals industry began just over a year ago, when I was hired on at Metal Center News as the magazine's new associate editor. I didn’t know the difference between steel and stainless, galvanized and Galvalume. I didn’t know much about supply chains and logistics, the steelmaking process or end markets, and I was blissfully unaware of the potential impacts of the then-budding Section 232 debate.

As a wide-eyed young editor, I stood in awe of this massive industry and was somewhat overwhelmed by its depth and texture.

My first comprehensive examination of the steel industry came one year ago today, when I attended Steel Market Update’s 2017 Steel Summit. I didn’t know it at the time, but conferences such as Steel Summit would come to play a crucial role in my development and eventual understanding of the steel industry.

And after a year in which I attended many of the major metals conferences in North America, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that Steel Summit is at the top of its game when it comes to comprehensive, engaging and entertaining coverage of the industry.

The eighth annual Steel Summit is being held this week in Atlanta, and once again, SMU’s annual conference has outdone itself. Attendance at this year’s conference increased nearly 40 percent to 912 people, as more and more folks learn about the benefits of this worthwhile event.

The secret to Steel Summit’s success has been its inclusion of individuals throughout the steel supply chain, according to John Packard, president and CEO of SMU.

“Since the very beginning, we concentrate on people who buy and sell steel, as opposed to concentrating on people that own companies or that are managing companies,” Packard says. “In the process, we end up putting together people who are natural customers of one another.” 

What that means is taking the time to schedule speakers carefully, making sure that Steel Summit’s content reflects those issues that are timely and important to the industry.

“We vet all of our speakers to make sure they are knowledgeable of the topics that we want them to speak about, what the industry is interested in,” Packard says. “I spend a lot of time talking to buyers and sellers and the steel mills and trading companies to find out what they’re interested in.”

That fact is not lost on trade attorney Lewis Leibowitz, who has presented at Steel Summit each of the last five years.

“This is the best conference of the year,” Lewis says. “Part of that is because it focuses on steel users and not just steel producers.”

Planning for next year’s Steel Summit is already underway. Packard says it starts with assessing the success of the most recent conference.

“When I look at a conference, I’m looking at people’s faces in the audience, I’m looking in the exhibition area and seeing how many people are talking to each other,” he says. “When you see people staying through the conference and staying awake and not just wandering around, then you know you have a good conference.”

Based on the success of this year’s event, Packard would not be shocked to see attendance at Steel Summit 2019 grow 20-30 percent. But that doesn’t mean he’s complacent. 

The last key to Steel Summit’s success, according to Packard, is keeping things fresh.

“Every year has to be different, because you have to adapt,” he says. “You have to adapt to what’s happening in the marketplace; you have to adapt to what people are feeling and thinking.”

This approach has helped Steel Summit live up to its moniker as the “premier steel conference in North America.”