World of Concrete and Large-scale Trade Shows Return to Las Vegas

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World of Concrete and Large-scale Trade Shows Return to Las Vegas

By Rich Luna | Jun 9, 2021

Who’d have ever thought that concrete would get so much attention.

Yet, when Informa Markets’ World of Concrete opened the doors Tuesday in Las Vegas, it sent a signal that reverberated throughout the business meeting, event and hospitality industry, becoming the first large-scale trade show to return to the U.S. market since the COVID-19 pandemic brought businesses to a halt, as well as the first event in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s $1 billion West Hall expansion.

“This is a really important day in Las Vegas,” said Steve Hill, CEO and president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). “This was always going to be a much-anticipated event for both the LVCVA and the city of Las Vegas. After what we have been through over the past 15 months, that anticipation has grown, and the importance has been amplified.

“This is not only a great day for our city, it’s a great day for the meeting and convention industry across Las Vegas and really across the United States.”

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, who endured both praise and criticism—as did most governors across the U.S.—also reveled in welcoming World of Concrete and the return of business meetings.

“This convention reinvigorates our commitment to being bold in how we envision the future of infrastructure and the recovery of our state, and this is only the beginning,” he said. “The Las Vegas Convention Center has a robust lineup of conventions and trade shows lined up on the calendar for 2021, and a robust calendar going into 2022. We’re all excited to welcome those events as well. But today we’re welcoming World of Concrete.”

The event, normally in January, brings industry professionals and exhibitors from concrete, construction and masonry industries to the convention center for education, networking and events such as the much-anticipated SPEC MIX BRICKLAYER 500 World Championship, a timed contest that pits 26 masonry teams against one another to win the coveted title of 2021 World Champion and the new Cement Production Pavilion, with demonstrations of kilns, separators, mills, driers and silos.

World of Concrete, which has been ranked 13 times in The Trade Show Executive’s Gold 100, usually attracts more than 60,000 attendees, more than 1,500 exhibitors and has previously used nearly 774,000 square feet of meeting space. The show will be smaller this year as June is traditionally a busy month for the construction industry.

All of the events are taking place at the convention center, with the recent West Wing expansion making the facility the fourth-largest convention center in the U.S. The center also debuted the launch of Elon Musk’s underground loop, which transports people around the convention center campus. There was an official ribbon cutting to open the West Wing.

“This is a great day to celebrate and take a moment to acknowledge each and every one of us here, the trials and tribulations that we’ve been through personally and professionally in the last year—and to the human spirit that’s been able to bring all this together today,” said Charlie McCurdy, CEO of Informa Markets. “This is a momentous occasion for the Las Vegas Convention Center, the city of Las Vegas and the whole exhibition industry.

“This is a momentous occasion for the Las Vegas Convention Center, the city of Las Vegas and the whole exhibition industry.”

“We have a very rich relationship with Las Vegas, which serves as the home to the trade show industry here in the U.S. market, really the flagship city.”

McCurdy said he was thrilled to be part of the moment both for friends and partners and for the return of in-person trade shows in the U.S.

“These trade shows help create $325 billion in business in the U.S. and 1.3 million jobs annually—more important now than ever before,” he said.

World of Concrete alone contributed $109 million of economic impact to Las Vegas last year and is particularly important to small and medium-sized businesses, which make up 85 percent of customers. 

Informa Markets, which brings a number of shows to Las Vegas, is the convention center’s single biggest customer.

McCurdy added he was honored to be the first customer of the West Hall, a facility that of course was built with concrete, the staple ingredient that is the foundation of every convention center, hotel, meeting venue and more.

Health and safety concerns were a top priority for World of Concrete. Past participants were surveyed and the overwhelming sentiment was an enthusiasm to return to the live event format.

WEC Vegas, June 15-17, 2021. Make your future.

“That feedback included a consistent desire to accelerate growth, but even more meaningfully were the many testimonials that World of Concrete is not just where our community does business, but where they make new connections, build lifelong friendships and enjoy company with longtime friends and industry colleagues,” said Kevin Thornton, vice president of operations at Informa Markets.

He said World of Concrete would not only adhere to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Clark County guidelines, but would have daily temperature checks for all attendees; social distancing in meeting rooms, conference and high-traffic areas; improved ventilation; and enhanced and regular cleaning schedules.

The convention center has received the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR facility accreditation by ISSA: The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association and is the first convention center in the U.S. to offer customers onsite automated healthcare with the arrival of a groundbreaking high-tech virtual healthcare station by Florida-based OnMed. The station is the world’s only self-contained medical unit that uses patented technologies to directly connect patients to healthcare professionals to conduct a medical exam and, if necessary, dispense prescription medications on the spot.

The state of Nevada began allowing businesses to operate at full capacity, with no COVID-19 restrictions, on June 1.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve had to make some really difficult decisions,” Sisolak said Tuesday. “Some things kept me up at night, decisions that affected people’s lives and livelihoods. But as I said recently, every difficult decision was rooted in the long-term strategy for economic recovery, which has led us to where we are today. That’s why we prioritized hospitality workers for vaccinations when doses were limited. That’s why we spent 15-plus months carefully working to balance the health and safety of the public with our economic vitality. It’s been a long time coming, Nevada, but we made it.”

The move to fully open is also expected to help with bringing workers back; the jobless rate in Las Vegas surged to 34 percent last April, one of the worst rates in the country, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

World of Concrete begins a busy time for Las Vegas, including for MPI, which brings its World Education Congress to the new CAESARS FORUM June 15-17—the first major in-person event this year for meeting and event professionals. The Venetian Resort has reportedly sold out its convention space for the last seven months of this year. Hill said hotels are at 80 percent occupancy on the weekends now and the Las Vegas airport has been the busiest in the country. Other events scheduled over the next seven months include the National Mining Expo, National Association of Broadcasters, Specialty Equipment Market Association automotive aftermarket show and, of course, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2022.

“There is an energy to the in-person experience that we have been missing over the last 15 months.”

Las Vegas has been recognized as the No. 1 trade show destination in the country for 26 consecutive years by Trade Show Network News. The city welcomed more than 6.6 million business travelers in 2019 and spending by visitors attending conventions directly supported 43,500 jobs, generating more than $11.4 billion in overall economic impact.

All that came to a screeching halt due to the pandemic but that did not stop Las Vegas from expansions and renovations. In addition to the West Hall expansion, which added 1.4 million square feet of space to the existing 3.2 million-square-foot campus, development continued on a number of major projects in 2020 totaling more than 2 million square feet of new meeting space, bringing the citywide total to more than 14 million square feet. Some of the new additions included CAESARS FORUM, Allegiant Stadium, AREA15, along with expansions at MGM properties Mandalay Bay, ARIA and Park MGM, including the MGM Grand Conference Center, the Stella Studio at The Venetian Resort and new indoor and outdoor space at Wynn Las Vegas. Two new resorts opened, Circa Resort & Casino and Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, and a third, Resorts World, will open June 24.

“This show really marks the beginning of the recovery,” Hill said. “Regardless of what the protocol should have been in any given state, shows like this have not happened. They were allowed to in some places, they certainly couldn’t in others, but that didn't really make a difference. The health situation is really what has made the difference, and this is the first citywide major convention to come back in the United States. That’s why it’s so important to us, not only here in Las Vegas, but to the industry as a whole around the country.”

Hill acknowledged the challenge in filling jobs.

“There's a probably a number of reasons for that,” he said. “The pandemic was just very disruptive in any number of different ways. We will certainly end up filling all of those jobs. But in order to do that, the demand has to be there. The demand has come back faster than anybody would have expected and that just causes a ripple in the pond that takes a little while to even out. But it’ll even out over the next couple of months. I’m sure we’ll get back to full employment in full capacity.”

Nan Walsh, president, North America at Informa Markets, said World of Concrete helps launch small businesses, create rich networking opportunities and ensure that revenue opportunities are stimulated on and off the show floor.

“In this year of recovery and reconnection, finding those opportunities are more important than ever,” she said. “We are in the business of connection. We have made incredible progress in providing our customers broader reach, better qualified leads and year-round opportunities for education, innovation and growth through digital and data solutions, but meaningful networking is not replicable in a virtual format. There is an energy to the in-person experience that we have been missing over the last 15 months.”

Photos by Sam Morris LVCVA/Las Vegas News Bureau.



Rich Luna

Rich Luna is Director of Publishing for MPI and Editor-in-chief of The Meeting Professional.