SMG Ready For Real Convention

November 28, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Even though suppliers to the industrial woodworking industry will be the very first conventioneers in the new DeVos Place on Thursday, they won't be the very first group to have gotten the first up-close look at the new exhibit space.

Members of the construction crew beat the woodworkers to that honor.

A contractor's bash was held in the new $212 million convention center on Nov. 20, an event put together solely for the hundreds who are building the massive structure and their family members. In all, roughly 2,800 attended the two-hour dinner event.

Set-up, however, for the Midwest Industrial Woodworking Expo got started in earnest last Saturday. The event, which should draw close to 8,000 delegates, will have between 300 and 350 exhibits — and a few will be as large as one of the banquet rooms in Van Andel Arena.

"It is the single, largest-taxing event we will do," said Jim Watt, SMG assistant manager of operations.

Although DeVos Place has everything that exhibitors and delegates need, Watt said SMG has brought in a couple of extra electric generators and at least one additional air compressor as backups for the tradeshow.

Watt added that employees have been trained on the new HVAC and sound systems and that a new digital security system has been installed.

"We've been very proactive on everything," he said. "We're testing everything possible."

The woodworking expo is one of about six conventions booked that will use all 160,000 square feet of exhibit space in DeVos Place.

SMG general manager Rich MacKeigan said the cooperation he got from the contractors was vital in getting the exhibit space open in time. He hopes that everything runs smoothly for the first official revenue-generating event in the building, but he knows better.

"To say there won't be any issues, don't let them tell you that," said MacKeigan.

Local firms are involved with this week's convention. The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel is providing the food and beverages. Art Craft is doing the decorating, while Blue Water Technologies is handling the audio-visual work. Blue Water is based in Southfield, but the firm recently opened a local office on 44th Street.

SMG has moved from its temporary office at 201 Monroe Ave. NW into a temporary office near the north-end loading docks of DeVos Place. Staff members may be situated there until all the construction work is finished in January of 2005.

"Nothing is too good for you guys," said Lew Chamberlin, a member of the Convention and Arena Authority board and chairman of the CAA Operations Committee.

By the way, the final event at the Grand Center was held last Thursday and it featured some carving of its own, although not of the wood variety.

The building's last event was the seventh annual Thanksgiving Day dinner put on by Mel Trotter Ministries.

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