Windy City to Play Host to Nation's Contractors

Maybe it's just a coincidence. Or maybe it's actually a cleverly disguised way of courting electrical contractors who may be interested in being part of the design/build teams that will bid on an upcoming expansion to its convention center. But at any rate, Chicago's McCormick Place will open its doors to the NECA Show 2002 on Oct. 6-8, giving electrical contractors from across the country the chance to size up its facility less than two months before final qualifications and guaranteed maximum cost proposals are due for work on the McCormick Place West Expansion project. This job will include the construction of more than 600,000 sq ft of meeting space and 200,000 sq ft of registration place.

At 2.2 million sq ft, the facility is already the largest convention center in the United States, boasting 112 meeting rooms, assembly seating for 10,000 people, and a 4,200-seat theater. With that much room — and the accompanying 8,000 parking spaces — it's hard to believe an expansion could be in order. In fact, the area of the center in which the NECA Show will take place, the Lakeside Center, was just renovated, expanded, and reopened in 1998. However, the latest expansion is moving forward; the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which owns and operates the convention center, recently announced the sale of $800 million in bonds to finance the project. Groundbreaking is scheduled for 2003 with a completion date of 2007.

Walking the floor.

Grasping the scope of the expansion project is hardly the only reason to attend the show, however.

A series of technical workshops will take place on the exhibit floor and cover a variety of topics, including ground testing, system grounding for mission critical power systems, and wireless technology.

The show will also feature the New and Featured Products Room, where 250 exhibitors will show off their products and services to attendees in the adjoining 150,000-sq-ft exhibit halls.

Sitting down on the job.

When they're not busy walking the show floor, attendees can take a load off and choose from an array of sessions to sit down at, all of which will bring them up to speed on the latest trends in the electrical contracting industry, including:

Enhancing Financial Success Among Electrical Contractors - Sunday, Oct. 6, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Significant changes are taking place in the industry related to deregulation, new markets like limited energy information services, and the design/build project delivery approach. This seminar will focus on financial management and competitive intelligence in the construction industry.

The Future of Unions - Sunday, Oct. 6, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Electrical contracting is tied intimately to union labor, and maintaining a relationship with this group of workers is important to the industry's success. This seminar will explain the most important concerns that union leaders have about the future, and help electrical contractors and union leaders envision a preferred future for the industry.

Electrical Contracting in an Uncertain Economy - Monday, Oct. 7, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. The current state of the economy is a hot topic for everyone, but business owners like electrical contracting firms take an even greater interest in its success. Adding to that concern is the national growth in defaults, terminations, and bankruptcies in construction. This seminar will focus on how to detect and assess your contract risks, what action you should and shouldn't take when you're confronted with a default, and project management techniques to make you more successful in litigation.

Benchmarking of Productivity Indicators - Monday, October 7, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Labor-intensive industries like the electrical trades are considered high-risk due to the high percentage of labor costs. This presentation will establish benchmark indicators, such as the relationship between the percent complete or percent time and cumulative manhours or cost, established on the basis of actual project data.

Getting Better Control in This Hard Insurance Market - Tuesday, Oct. 8, 7:30 a.m to 8:30 a.m. The sudden increases in insurance rates are enough to throw anyone for a loop, so if you'd like to learn how to keep those costs down, this seminar is for you. This moderated seminar will reveal what the future holds for financing risk options.

State of the Economy - Tuesday, Oct. 8, 7:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. Not enough can be said about the economy. This seminar will focus on current events, including an analysis of the economic impact of political activity coming out of Washington, D.C. A forecast for the remainder of the current year and for next year will also be presented.

Keeping up on all the changes to the electrical contracting industry can be difficult in any economic climate, but the situation today makes it that much more important to know what's going on. Making the trip to Chicago this year for the NECA Show 2002 is a good start to educating yourself on what's new and hot in the business. At the very least you'll have the chance to rub shoulders with your contemporaries in the business and exchange methods for dealing with the market. Things may be bad, but there's a certain expansion project in Chicago that might just turn it around.