At Las Vegas Convention Center, workers assemble largest U.S. trade show

As a man worked from atop a scissor lift, Eminem’s voice rang out loud and clear from a cellphone speaker. To the right, two men, speaking Spanish and wearing yellow safety vests, sipped soft drinks while walking the corridor just outside the North Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

This is crunch time.

On Thursday, thousands of workers, most wearing T-shirts and jeans or cargo pants, helped put together the largest domestic trade show, CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2014. Together it will take crews 29 days to create an experience for the construction industries.

Tuesday through Saturday, CONEXPO-CON/AGG will take over every square inch of the Las Vegas Convention Center on Paradise Road, with its school-bus yellow, neon orange and frog green construction equipment taking up 2.5 million square feet, equal to about 41 football fields. Produced by the Association of Equipment Manufacturing, the show is expecting about 125,000 attendees who will create an estimated nongaming economic impact of $157.3 million to the city, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Compared with the show three years ago, registration already is tracking ahead for the 2014 show.

“A show this large requires thousands of hours of manpower to set up and break down and is a great example of how the meetings and convention industry helps sustain local jobs,” said Chris Meyer, vice president of global business sales for the authority.

In the convention center’s concourse Thursday, two Ahern forklifts were controlled side by side to lift the Association of Equipment Manufacturers sign atop two pillars at what will be the convention’s centerpiece area on Tuesday.

Outside, piles of truss were waiting to be assembled while nearby one of many GES service centers was open to assist any of the 2,500 or so exhibiting companies.

On a busy set-up day, GES employs 1,541 workers, including 945 Teamsters, 417 electricians, 129 stagehands and 50 carpenters.

About 70 full-time GES employees come in from other locales to help out about 400 local employees.

“This wouldn’t be possible without the GES staff,” said Steve Moster, president of GES. “We bring in team members from all around the country in order to produce an event like this. I think the quality of that team shows up in what you see here today and what you’ll see here on Tuesday morning.”


The inside halls and all of the outside parking lots at the convention center are being transformed into showrooms for heavy construction machinery. Among the products being shown next week are more than 30 cranes already raised, waiting for the show to start.

CONEXPO-CON/AGG comes to Las Vegas every three years, and GES has been a show partner for at least 40 years.

“When the show is over, the manufacturers and exhibitors want to entertain their clients, and this is a great town to do that in,” Moster said.

The trade show coincides with the 2014 IFPE expo for fluid power, motion control and power transmission.

“Both shows are the largest they have ever been,” said Megan Tanel, vice president of exhibitions for the Association of Equipment Manufacturing.

One factor playing into the size is the large numbers of international attendees.

“What we find is that Las Vegas is a huge draw for internationals,” Tanel said.

Exact numbers weren’t yet available.


New this year is the addition of the Platinum parking lot exhibit space, which is one of the convention center’s recently acquired pieces of land transformed into a parking lot. Product areas also have been redesigned in an effort to help people find brands more easily. Because the show is so large, an enhanced intra-show shuttle will be provided, and golf carts can help people walk less.

As for the industry itself, Tanel said the association has a positive outlook for 2014, and contractors are seeing jobs pick up.

“Internationally, we’ve had some growth in South America outside of Brazil, which is positive. China is still a little slow, as it has been,” Tanel said.

At this show, everything’s bigger, and the average booth size is 2,000-3,000 square feet. Large construction brands such as Caterpillar and Case are taking up 30,000 to 40,000 square feet inside the convention center, plus outdoor space in some cases.

The event also is filled with targeted educational opportunities, including eight industry tracks. Tanel said the association is seeing record ticket sales for those conferences, with more than 27,000 tickets sold.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.

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