by Laura Palker, National TradeShow Alliance President & CEO
Last year, as an alumna of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative, I joined with others to help small businesses speak with our elected officials on Capitol Hill. We talked about what we needed to survive this global pandemic that was crippling small businesses. The GS10KSB Voices Campaign was highly effective with more than 2,000 alumni joining zoom calls nationwide to speak out about what we needed to recover. Making my living over the past 30 years in the tradeshow industry has been a journey beyond compare. Who would have ever thought this thing that shut us down would last so long? I am still finding emails that say, “Hang tight, we will figure this out in a few weeks …”
As weeks turned to months, I remember being touched in a profound way by the change.org petition launched by the Live Events Coalition. All of us knew our workforce was being decimated and, through no fault of our own, our voices were not being heard. I spoke with Congressman Tom Suozzi (pictured right) who said he knew the owners of Gilbert Displays in Long Island, N.Y., and could see the devastation our industry was experiencing. He told me to follow up with his Legislative Director Conor Walsh and in our first call I had to explain, “No, the convention center does not hire the contractors to build out the shows.” After a few minutes, I was making headway. ”Yes, many small businesses with specialized skills come together to build an environment for businesses to grow and we contribute $396 billion in direct spending to our economy.”
In another follow-up call with Bob Watson (pictured left) of Skyline Displays and Steve Griffin from Nationwide Displays, Bob pointed out, “Actually, the convention center is a building, the show organizer rents the space, then there is a general contractor and subcontractors, designers, logistics and more. By the way, did you know 6.6 million people make up our workforce, we are essential to our economic recovery, and we are bigger than the automotive industry—we impact tax revenue, jobs in cities all over the country from the bellman to the forklift driver and we need help.”
I would email and call Conor monthly to keep him informed of our progress, wherever our industry leaders were able to make headway. I would share news from EDPA, the Live Events Coalition, ESCA, IAEE, EAC, EACA, SISO and more. This is the type of conversation we all need to have with our local, state, regional and federal elected officials’ offices every month. If you need help finding an office or a person to call, we will help you make a call, write a letter or email. If you feel uncomfortable reaching out, join the NTSA and help us build our numbers so we can present a stronger voice.
The IAEE has worked with us, helping us learn how to work with the Dept. of Labor, and Conor introduced us to Rep. Suozzi’s Senior Legislative Assistant Steven Peterson who wrote a letter of support to the Dept. of Labor to help us get funding for workforce development. We connected with the Workforce Development Board in our area and are extremely grateful to Chair Sammy Chu for his letter of support and his commitment to our industry’s displaced workers.
We are pleased to partner with the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative to help our small business owners develop a strong way forward. The program is a boot camp for business and all business owners can apply at no cost to you. You can meet Paisley Demby at our Virtual Conference and Sponsor Showcase on December 16 or visit our website to submit an application. Training is provided by renowned business schools Babson and Wharton. Your work product is a five-year growth plan that will help you set a plan for the way forward.
We are ready to come back, refresh skills and to learn new skills to create safer spaces and healthy environments to work. We have been called the Invisible Industry, but with your involvement as an NTSA member we can work to shine the light on our industry and its workforce, associations, alliances and organizations. The time has come for us to be seen, we need your help to return stronger than ever. Without our workforce our ecosystem is not sustainable. We are all interdependent and stronger together.
Join us at www.nationaltradeshowalliance.org.
Together, Let’s Be the Voice.
Laura Palker (pictured left) is founder/president of the nonprofit National TradeShow Alliance; founder/CEO of Trade Show Solutions Center, a provider of exhibit planning, design, production and marketing services; president of the Solution Center Network, partnering graphic designers and marketing professionals; and a partner in NewNormalSupplies.com and EventShipping.com. Contact her at email@example.com
This story originally appeared in the Nov./Dec. 2021 issue of Exhibit City News, p. 48. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_nov-dec_2021