A Q&A with Jim Cunningham
“We are not really trying to reinvent the wheel. But we are trying a new approach to create a show for people who are craving some intimacy.”
Americas Print Show will take place on August 17-19th at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Only a five-hour drive from most of the population in the country and only a 90-minute flight from pretty much anywhere in the Midwest and South, this show aims to support the industry in a meaningful way. With a great facility right in the middle of one of the largest entertainment areas in the Midwest, attendees are poised to have a ball. There are 70 to 80 restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues within steps of the convention center, and it is a great time of year. With a very exhibitor-friendly location and an inviting spot for everyone, Americas Print Show will be a great way to reignite the passion within our industry. You can visit Americasprintshow22.com to learn more. In the meantime, we sat down with Jim Cunningham, the director of the show, to get his take on why this show matters so much.
What’s on your mind, as you begin down this path of launching America’s Print Show in 2022?
We’re looking to create a place for people to continue building on relationships that they’ve had for several years that have not been progressing as much as they would like. Our old reliable venues, where everyone used to go, have slowly disappeared. It will be an event where people on your team can travel a short distance and see the exhibits, engage with others who are doing similar things, and have a wonderful opportunity to gather.
What are you hearing that makes you think the industry is starving for connection and a bit more intimacy?
Well, not just hearing about it; we’re experiencing it. As an association that covers the industry for Ohio, Michigan, and parts of Kentucky, we have had four to five in-person events this year, and the people attending those events have been very cognizant of making sure that they are safe. You can literally see on their faces how happy they are to be able to talk to other people within the industry again. Giving them an opportunity to get together, celebrate and share information that they haven’t been able to do in 18 months is cathartic.
There are certain things that you can do effectively on Zoom, but others don’t come across as effectively. I am not suggesting that people need to necessarily hug when they get together, but you can feel a strength when we gather. We have exhibitors, manufacturers, 25 to 30 associations, and, of course, former PIA affiliates ready to come together.
Tell us a little bit about the team or the group that’s pulling this together.
We have a great team of individuals working together. We have people like Bill Farquharson and Deborah Corn, and a whole host of others that realize that success is based on relationships and getting connected with others in person. We were approached by a few large exhibitors who were looking to try to do something a little different. They want to do something that wasn’t so large and that afforded people the chance to spend time with others.
We are not really trying to reinvent the wheel. But we are trying a new approach to create a show for people who are craving some intimacy. It will appeal to the Midwest and the East Coast to get started, but we’re not limiting what we’re doing to those areas. We have people from California, Texas, and Florida all coming
How do you envision your platform making a difference?
We have associations that are going to help us as far as presenting on workforce development. We have individuals who are looking to work with us on developing education programs for people coming into the industry. And we’re going to address a lot of the issues that are facing the industry head-on. We have a workforce coalition that’s made up of 60 companies and associations from all over the country that will be holding meetings at our show. The PIA affiliates are holding their summer conference with us. So again, we’re excited about all the opportunities for people to get involved.
One of the great benefits of having so many associations involved is our understanding of their members’ needs. There are still actually approximately 7,000 printers involved with the PIA affiliates alone. Being able to work with that association and find out what their members need the most allows us to provide programming that addresses those needs. In addition, we have the privilege to work with the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation, which has funds available to young people to get involved in the industry.
It sounds like Americas Print Show 22 is about helping this industry rediscover and reconnect with what makes them great. True?
Print adapts to what’s going on in the world. And it adapts to technology. When the internet arrived, everybody thought that print was dead, but print adapted and grew. So, it’s not just a gathering of the people that matters. The equipment and technology are also going to come together at our show and will inspire new adaptations and new levels of success for printers.
To add to that, I think our industry is full of small to mid-sized family-owned businesses. And I think that the world is starving for the familiarity and comfortability that comes with small businesses. We’ve got these big conglomerates with algorithms running the world and things have gotten very cold. So, there’s a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and people who want to serve in a very authentic way. And our industry has always been about that. America’s Print Show is endeavoring to not only remind us of that but help us get back to genuine connection. Let’s create, let’s connect, let’s get back together, and let’s be real.
There’s a real human side of this that you guys are tapping into, isn’t there?
I believe 80% of all printers have 20 employees or less. There are still a lot of small companies out there that need shows like this and the corresponding services that we will exhibit.
What’s your advice to the people in our industry?
There are a lot of things going on that are out of people’s control. I think people need to look at their overall business and need to assess where they’re at, what their capabilities are, and be patient. I think coming out of the pandemic too fast is a concern for some businesses but moving too slow would be even more concerning. People need to keep their finger on the pulse of things and I think that that’s why associations and gatherings like ours are critical right now.
Jim is the President of Graphic Media Alliance
Catch the full podcast episode on the canvasmag.com
Get all the details on Americas Print Show 2022 here.