by Ray Smith
When tradeshows began rebounding from the pandemic, Bob Dobinski said he believed that regional shows would be quickest to come back, as local authorities could manage COVID restrictions with greater flexibility.
Dobinski took that opportunity to broaden his business base at Corporate Events New England, acquiring Dame Associates and Specialty Equipment Rental (SER), two companies that he had turned to when his company got strapped for resources.
Corp-Events New England registers as a blip on the national radar of general service contractors, but it rules small- and medium-sized events in the Boston area, primarily at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center and Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
Founded in 1985, Corp-Events provides labor for installation and dismantling of exhibits with an emphasis on the Northeast. The company provides audio/visual equipment, furniture and carpet, and 22,000 square feet of warehouse to allow for convenient transport and freight services.
“Our union agreement provided us with an opportunity to partner with SER and Dame,” Dobinski says from his headquarters in Westborough, Massachusetts. “We would rent from them when we ran out. We’ve now purchased some of their materials and brought key people on board.”
SER Materials was purchased at auction and carried a certain amount of debt that would not be the responsibility of Corp-Events New England, according to Dobinski. That inventory of drapes, tables, chairs, carpet and Velcro-compatible poster boards has been a great asset when national contractors need help servicing their clients, he says.
Dame Associates, an entertainment and corporate management firm, was founded by Doug Dame in 1966 in Boston. It posted revenue of less than $5 million a year. As tradeshows returned to the national scene, Dobinski recognized that purchasing the assets and database of Dame Associates would lead to greater success for Corp-Events, one of the smallest, but most agile, general contractors in the Northeast.
The merger of two labor unions in Boston, following the conviction of several members for racketeering in 2012, created a unique opportunity for Corp-Events. With a staff of about 25 list employees, Corp-Events is able to cherry-pick workers beyond the four permanent employees mandated by I&D agreements that typically require additional workers be assigned from the union referral pool.
Teamsters in Boston came up short on labor for a recent show, calling Dobinski late afternoon to let him know they couldn’t fulfill his request for a couple dozen workers that next day.
“Because we’ve engaged so many people, we were able to supplement our workforce with professional talent,” he says. “We called in friends and family.”
With pent-up resumption of tradeshows and his business acquisitions, Dobinski estimates that Corp-Events will probably triple its revenue from last year and exceed 2019 levels by 50 percent.
“Boston is probably the foremost international destination for shows,” Dobinski asserts. “Everybody in Europe wants to come here for the history, the friendliness.”
The East Coast is a major hub for domestic travelers, as well, and the Hynes Convention Center and Boston Convention Center are two facilities that can handle shows of formidable size, he adds.
Corp-Events kept its workforce busy during COVID by helping to turn Boston Convention Center into a 1,000-bed treatment center, and setting up “glamping” structures, or glamor camping, in New York, Maine and New Hampshire, the company president notes. “We had the ability and the talent to activate when events came back.”
Dobinski came out of University of Cincinnati as an industrial designer, and started working with several exhibit houses, eventually becoming a tradeshow event planner and manager for Digital Equipment Corporation. With Boston being such a busy tradeshow destination, he parlayed his experience and industry contacts into forming his own company.
“One consistent thing in our industry is the ability of different contractors and organizations to join together and make sure the show is successful,” he says. “The general service contractor, the exhibitor appointed contractor, the electric utility provider, we all make it a positive experience for the customer, for the exhibitor.”