In its first year as the International CES general service contractor, Freeman is an 85-year-old company just getting its feet wet.
Freeman, which has its headquarters in Dallas, replaces competitor GES, the trade show’s contractor for 30 years.
Steve Anderson, executive vice president of business development at Freeman, said that to say it’s a significant accomplishment for the company is probably too small of a word.
“This is by far the largest event in Las Vegas and the largest event in North America,” he said.
Freeman has offices in 40 U.S. cities, including Las Vegas.
CES features 1.9 million net square feet of exhibitor space across multiple venues, with about 152,000 expected attendees and 3,200 exhibitors.
“There’s just nothing like this,” Anderson said.
Throughout December and into the weekend leading up to the show floor opening today, Freeman hired roughly 1,600 workers each day to create the 2014 CES. Riggers hung truss, motors and lights while electricians made sure all the wiring was set up to handle the electronics being shown this week.
Last Friday, 500 electricians, 300 stagehands and 700 Teamsters helped create the show.
Oversized wooden freight boxes were scattered throughout the Las Vegas Convention Center over the weekend, with crews unpacking goods for final setup. Carpeting throughout the convention hall was covered with plastic, and sporadic sounds of boom lifts backing up could be heard.
“We’re going to open on time. There’s not a doubt in the world,” Anderson said.
Hosted by the Consumer Electronics Association, the show takes up residence at the Las Vegas Convention Center, LVH and The Venetian. Press day was held Monday at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
New this year is an exhibitor pavilion across Paradise Road from the Las Vegas Convention Center in the Gold parking lot. It is housing 300 companies for which Freeman created the space. Also notable is Qualcomm’s move out of South hall into Central hall.
Freeman’s planning began before the company even placed a bid on CES, Anderson said.
“I’ve been waiting to bid on this since joining Freeman 14 years ago,” he said.
Anderson wouldn’t disclose the length of the contract but said it’s for more than a year. CES spokeswoman Tara Dunion, too, declined to disclose the length.
“There are a lot of things Freeman does differently, but I don’t want to get into it too much. I want to be respectful. I mean there are a lot of people not working this week,” Anderson said.
This isn’t the first year that Freeman has worked on CES: The company was awarded an audio-visual contract with the Consumer Electronics Association in 2010, and it worked on the show when it was in Chicago, before it came to Las Vegas decades ago.
“It took us a while to catch up,” Anderson said.
Along with the new contractor comes an increased focus on sustainability.
Freeman is taking all magnetic signs covering the front of the convention center at the show — 30,000 square feet — and recycling them.
It is the first time Freeman or CES has done that, and it was a special request from the Consumer Electronics Association.
Freeman also has set up donation programs with some of the exhibitors.
For example, Sony’s booth was made with a large amount of lumber. Last year, the company threw away six or seven dumpsters’ worth of product that went into landfills. This year, the electronics giant is donating the wood to Habitat for Humanity.
Also, all of the plastic sheeting — 1.4 million square feet — used on the floor at The Venetian will be donated to Overton-based farming group Quail Hollow Farm for use in the fields.
“CES had asked for a smaller footprint for the show. That’s their goal, to make it greener,” said Jeff Chase, vice president of sustainability at Freeman.
As for the trade show industry as a whole, sustainability is increasingly important to clients.
“It’s becoming a huge thing. There’s a standard set, and just putting out a recyclable garbage can isn’t enough,” Chase said.
“You’ve got to actually recycle materials and think about how it’s reused. There’s a great movement among all of our corporate clients, where they’re asking for sustainability in all of the things we’re doing.”
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.