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Galaxy to offer trade forums; Frederick company merges with Atlanta e-commerce firm; Internet


Frederick-based Galaxy Information Services LLC will merge with the e-commerce division of Atlanta's Third Millennium Communications Inc., creating a company that can offer online trade shows and build electronic marketplaces for each of the nation's 3,500 trade associations.

The merger, announced yesterday, is the newest wrinkle in the rush to create online marketplaces in the "business-to-business" portion of the electronic-commerce arena. Up to now, many of the virtual marketplaces built for various industries are being created by outsiders -- technology firms without long-standing industry ties that were created, essentially, to establish those markets.

That's not true of ExpoExchange, the venture being formed by joining Galaxy and Third Millennium, better-known in the industry as 3MC, say trade-show industry officials.

Galaxy, with offices in Frederick and Deerfield, Ill., has served the trade-show industry for more than 50 years, and will manage more than 360 trade shows this year alone. 3MC offers proprietary software and services that help trade associations expand beyond the trade shows they hold each year by creating virtual meeting places and marketplaces for their members. That's allowed longstanding trade groups to protect their turf against incursions from e-commerce outsiders -- and to better-serve their members, said Jeff Ducate, director of strategic alliances for the International Association for Exposition Management (IAEM) in Dallas, the organization that represents trade show organizers and managers.

"It's an additional piece of the puzzle that needed to come together" in the e-commerce arena, Ducate said.

When it comes to electronic commerce, virtual marketplaces that allow businesses to buy and sell to each other -- known as "B2B" transactions -- are viewed as the next big thing. Forrester Research Inc., which analyzes the impact of technology on businesses, said B2B e-commerce will be a $2.7 trillion enterprise by 2004 .

Experts say these electronic marketplaces will make companies more efficient, save time, reduce costs and probably stabilize prices, too. Plus, these virtual markets operate around the clock.

Galaxy has a huge client list, while 3MC has the technology and the reputation for being able to help trade associations build online ventures, said Michael W. Reene, the chief executive of 3MC who is to serve as CEO of the new ExpoExchange venture.

Galaxy employs about 400 people between its Frederick and Deerfield offices, and none will be forced to relocate to Atlanta, where the new company will have its headquarters. No completion date for the merger was announced.

However, these officials did say the new company will have more than $45 million in revenue this year, and will immediately be servicing 80,000 sellers and 4 million buyers.

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