Steel Honored by New York IAEE
Alan E. Steel, president and CEO of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, will receive the King’s Glove Award from the New York chapter of the International Association of Exhibitions & Events.
He is being honored for his contributions to the trade show industry over the past 35 years in the New York area and throughout the world. His career began with his trade development role at the British consulate in New York, continued through his tenure at George Little Management and now continues with his leadership role at Javits.
Steel spoke recently with Expo about his role at the convention center and his thoughts on the trade show industry.
Expo: How have the recent expansion and changes at Javits Center changed things for the venue and for the New York trade show business?
Alan Steel: We are nearing the completion of a top-to-bottom renovation and, as a result, the Javits Center has never looked better. We have replaced the dark, mirrored glass with more than 6,000 panels of translucent glass that lighten up our interior space like never before.
We are repairing the entire roof to eliminate leaks, replacing the terrazzo floors throughout the facility, upgrading the air conditioning and heating systems and renovating all of the restrooms. With a significant investment in our IT infrastructure and a new focus on exceptional customer service, the building has never been a better place for the events industry.
Expo: How hard was it to shift from a senior show management role to a venue management role over the last couple of years?
Steel: Going from an entrepreneurial business to a public benefit corporation was a real challenge. The operations of a private business are conducted differently than those of a government entity—from the business procedures to the purchasing process—but I was fortunate to have strong support from many within the organization, which made the transition easier.
I had been a customer of the Javits Center ever since it opened in 1986, so I was able to bring a unique perspective to the facility, helping to refine its operations, recruit new leaders and instill a new culture of superior customer service. Today, the building is stronger, more efficient and busier than at any other point in its history.
Expo: What more do you personally want to accomplish there at Javits?
Steel: The Javits Center generates $1.5 billion in annual economic activity for New York City and New York State, including supporting 14,000 jobs and nearly 400,000 hotel room nights a year. This building’s economic impact is remarkable by any standard, and I only hope to increase those numbers in the future with a modernized facility.
As this construction project nears completion, I plan on focusing more on enhancing the experience of our customers, including bringing in new food and seating options, telecommunications services and sustainable initiatives. This summer, we expect to complete the installation of our 6.75-acre green roof—the largest of its kind anywhere in the Northeast.
The simplest answer to your question is, “Lots more.” And I haven’t even touched upon educating the customers about ways they can make a difference themselves…
Expo: Over the last 35 years of your career, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen to the trade show industry?
Steel: The entry of private equity into the business. When I started in the trade show business, the industry was still largely under the radar. It was dominated by entrepreneurs, family businesses and trade associations.
When companies like Cahners and other publishing houses began to pay attention to the business, it began to change. The subsequent involvement of private equity on a large scale has created a different dynamic.
Expo: What do you see as the biggest challenge to the industry over the next few years?
Steel: One of the biggest challenges will be related to the operation of the facilities themselves. The Javits Center operating budget does not benefit from subsidies or tax-based income. Our operational costs are fully supported by the revenue we generate and the services we deliver.
I believe this model will become more common to avoid the burden on taxpayers. I also think you will see more revenue-producing activities being developed by facilities themselves.