Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Written by John Packard

Today we are celebrating our 14th year of being in business. What began as an attempt to keep my steel-buying customers aware of the dynamics effecting steel prices and their mill orders morphed over the years into the Steel Market Update newsletter. I stopped selling steel during the first half 2008, and by early August Steel Market Update officially began publishing as a company.

It was a slog for the first year. I don’t recall taking a salary and lived off the commissions I had earned at Winner Steel just prior to being released by the new owners at the end of 2007. The Great Recession of 2008 proved to be both a blessing and curse for the newsletter. It wasn’t too long before the word got out that SMU was a newsletter unlike any other, and that our information and data was both different and relevant to a wide audience.

John Packard Summit 18

Our leadership and relevance continue under the leadership of Michael Cowden and the SMU team. I may be retiring at the end of August, but the newsletter is in good hands and will continue to grow and prosper.

In a few short weeks (Aug 22-24), we will be celebrating our twelfth SMU Steel Summit Conference. It has been a wild ride since our first conference, which was held in Las Vegas on October 27, 2010. We had about 100 brave executives who managed to take in our first conference, which was a one-day event held in conjunction with Metalcon. After a few years of working with Metalcon, we concluded we would be better situated if we were on our own.

It took a few years before we expanded to a two-day conference. Over just a couple of years the audience swelled, the subjects covered were expanded, and we moved to a three-day event – which is where we are today.

How did we decide to move our conference to late August, and to the Georgia International Convention Center?

After holding the conference in conjunction with Metalcon over the first three years, I found myself having a conversation with John Anton of IHS Markit about the conference and my desire to move it away from Metalcon to a better slot on the yearly calendar. Without giving me a specific date, he told me September was a very busy month for him because most of his clients were working on annual forecasts. I wanted our conference to focus on forecasting demand, supply, and pricing – so a late summer date seemed appropriate.

This prompted me to look at the calendar for competing events, and I found none at the end of August. I also considered when kids were heading back to school, most family vacations were over, etc. And I determined the two weeks prior to Labor Day weekend would be good for what we were trying to accomplish.

I lived in Atlanta at the time and was flying out of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on an almost monthly basis. Every time I flew, I drove by the GICC building. I made an appointment to speak with both the GICC and the Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway hotel to see what interest they would have in allowing a steel conference in their facilities in late August.

For the same reasons I mentioned above (kids back in school, vacations over, Labor Day coming), both buildings had a lull in their business in late August, and they were very supportive of the SMU Steel Summit Conference.

Our first conference at the Georgia International Convention Center was held in August 2014.

Once we moved into the GICC facility and our attendees got a taste of the convenience of the hotel(s), convention center, and the convenience to the Atlanta airport – and our conference attendance exploded.

If my memory is correct, we had 1,108 attendees at last year’s conference. Of those, approximately 200 were virtual. This year, we anticipate breaking last year’s attendance record, with all attendees being in person at the GICC.

We have an exceptional agenda again this year. I am looking forward to every speaker. This includes the entire Monday afternoon program with Gene Marks, our international steel panel, and our one-on-one fireside chat with Cleveland-Cliffs chairman, president and CEO Lourenco Goncalves.

Tuesday has many exceptional speakers beginning with Tommy Hosea of General Motors. This is the first time we have had GM speak at our conference, and Tommy will be doing a one-on-one fireside chat with Michael Cowden. We also have a special program on the future of trucking as well as our steel price forecasting panel with John Anton, Timna Tanners of Wolfe Research, and CRU’s Josh Spoores. We will in addition have our first presentation from the NEXGEN Metals Community steering committee followed by our NexGen Leadership Award. The day ends with a one-on-one fireside chat between me and Mark Millett, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Steel Dynamics.

Wednesday is another great day as we host the CEOs of Ryerson, Kloeckner, and Mill Steel on their views of what is important for the service center industry. Alan Beaulieu of ITR Economics will let us know where we are in the economic cycle and what you should be preparing for. We will also have a one-on-one fireside chat with Alan Kestenbaum, executive chairman and CEO of Stelco.

I suggest you take some time to review all of our speakers which you can do here. You can view the companies that have already registered here. And you can register for the conference here.

If you have any questions about the conference, please contact:

John Packard, SMU Founder

Latest in Final Thoughts