The 2011 International Home + Housewares Show, which featured more than 1,900 exhibitors, recently concluded its three-day run at Chicago’s McCormick Place on March 8.
This show marked the first time an electrical services provider other than the Metropolitan Pier and Exhibition Authority (MPEA) or an in-house contractor has been used at McCormick Place. Under Phase II of the legislative reforms that were implemented in October 2010, conventions at McCormick Place now have the option to choose a prequalified contractor.
As part of these new work rules, The International Housewares Association (IHA), which sponsors the show, selected Freeman as its electrical services provider.
Since October, the MPEA has been working to prequalify outside contractors like Freeman for this service. Global Experience Specialists (GES) has also become an MPEA prequalified provider.
“For many years, our customers in Chicago have complained about the electrical services at McCormick Place and Navy Pier,” said Kevin Felton, director of electrical services at Freeman. “These complaints were part of the reason that Illinois passed legislation that opened up electrical services at those facilities. Based upon our desire to provide better service for our customers, Freeman believed that the best course of action was to offer electrical services in Chicago as we do in several other cities.”
The MPEA requires that all preapproved electrical utility contractors provide all the necessary equipment for any given convention. The MPEA will not lease, loan, or otherwise provide equipment, supplies and services to contractors at McCormick Place. This includes, but is not limited to, electrical wiring, lighting fixtures, extension cords, receptacles, portable distribution panels, protective equipment and supplies, ramps and cable trays and other equipment needed to perform the electrical services.
In order to become an approved electrical contractor, Freeman also had to obtain an electrical contractor’s license for the City of Chicago and proper insurance and bonds. They also had to provide a qualified workforce.
“We signed an agreement with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 134 to obtain the qualified individuals,” said Felton.
According to the IHA, Freeman was selected because of its competitive rates and the quality of supervision and service they have available both pre-show and onsite to ensure work is done to the exhibitors satisfaction and within a timely manner.
“Freeman does a great job,” said Mia Rampersad, VP of tradeshows for IHA. “All of the equipment was brand new and they had plenty of workers on the showfloor. The service Freeman provides is impeccable.”
All of Freeman’s electrical rates for the show were performed at cost, so there was no markup on the services. Freeman was the vendor for electrical service and labor on the exhibit floor and in the meeting rooms.
As part of the legislation, the MPEA in-house contractor would have also provided the electrical service at cost. Exhibitor and Technical Services, formerly Focus One, is the in-house provider at McCormick Place.
“The Illinois legislation dictated that MPEA had to offer labor at cost,” said Felton. “Freeman decided to do so to remain competitive and keep the exhibitor costs as low as possible. Our costs for all other electrical services were also competitive to keep costs as low as possible.”
The new reform does allow exhibitors to use their own, approved outside electrical contractor, but the electrical service still needed to be ordered directly with Freeman and payment would also go to Freeman.
The outside electrical contractor would also be using Freeman’s rates, meaning they cannot provide quotes to prospective clients.
Under the new work rules, exhibitors were also able to deliver, setup, plug in, connect and operate electrical equipment, computers and audio visual devices in their exhibit, no matter what size booth they were using.
Freeman still had plenty of work to perform before the show started. The process began with obtaining the orders and necessary information from exhibitors.
“This involved several thousand phone calls, emails and faxes to ensure that we had the proper information with regards to each order,” said Felton. “All of this information was incorporated into our CAD drawings for layout on the show floor. We then moved approximately 15 truckloads of material into the facility to complete those orders. Over 200 electricians and 20 management staff were utilized on site to ensure that the work that was ordered was completed on time and as ordered.”
The at-cost labor rates reduced exhibitor costs for electricians and telecommunication installers by up to 23 percent from the 2010 show.
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