How GSCs and Exhibit Companies Are Helping to Construct Makeshift Hospitals

April 2, 2020

The phrase “all hands on deck” has never been more appropriate for this unprecedented time in history, and general service contractors and exhibit companies are stepping up to the plate. Here’s how companies like T3 Expo, Fern Expo, Display America, GES and Willwork Global Event Services are giving back, using their resources at hand to support the work of FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and local and state agencies to help others get through this unimaginable crisis with makeshift hospitals and testing centers.

T3 Expo

The team behind this general service contractor knows every square inch of Javits Center—expertise that came in very handy as the company began using its traditional journey mapping and floor-plan knowledge to help create exam rooms within the convention center when it opened as a temporary hospital this week.

When they got the call from Javits two weekends ago, there was no time to wait: “By Saturday afternoon, [we had] developed preliminary floor plans, renderings, production plans and pricing,” says Chris Valentine, CEO. Just two days later, they were notified they’d be moving forward on this project. The first phase opened March 26, and phase two was handled by GES to support the potential demand at the center. (T3 thought that it was important to spread out the work, according to company officials.) Javits Center is supplying the labor, as they always do, says Valentine, including carpenters, electricians and plumbers to make it possible.

“The fact that the Javits staff, T3 staff and various union members are willing to participate in this effort are a testament to the great people in our industry,” he adds. “This is truly going above and beyond to help our collective community.” 

Fern Expo

“Simply put, we have the equipment that is needed to provide the support; we have employees ready and willing to do the work; and we have the warehousing space to utilize for staging and prep work as needed,” says Jim Kelley, vice president of marketing for Fern. “Those three core resources are currently sitting idle, and coming up with solutions related to the creation of temporary healthcare facilities and other public safety usage was not that big of a leap.”

That’s why Fern has had its general managers in regular communication with the venues in their respective local and regional markets to offer them comprehensive solutions that include partitions and wall systems, furnishings, graphics, crowd control systems, labor and warehousing—effectively the same products they provide customers under normal circumstances. The company has also partnered with EventEQ/LMG to add audio and video conference offerings for larger venues.

“As we take the journey to recovery, the victories and gains may be small, but they are progress,” Kelley adds.'

Updated April 9: Fern Expo has been contracted to provide at least 1,000 temporary rooms for the conversion of the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Ohio to a medical facility. In addition, Fern is constructing screening rooms outside Seattle for Boeing employees to be tested and scanned daily as they report to work; and in Louisville, the company is working with Baptist Hospital to sub-divide existing space to increase patient capacity.

Display America

As the COVID-19 situation got closer to home and Display America’s offices went virtual, owner Carlos Quinones tried to think of ways they could help the community. After some team huddles, they came up with the concept of temporary emergency structures. “As business owners, we can’t wait for the government to do it all—we all need to find ways to do our part and help,” Quinones says.

While following guidance from public health officials and government agencies, DA is primed to give back through equipping local medical facilities with emergency modular structures, informational kiosks, signage, logistics or a simple call for moral support, according to company officials. “We’re confident that in these very difficult times, our company and industry is still capable of lending a hand to local communities,” Quinones adds.

As of press time, DA has been in communication with FEMA, the Army Corps, the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Emergency Management in Florida and Georgia, and others, working around the clock to provide agencies with information on what DA has to offer. Also added to its product lineup this week: N95 surgical masks, safety goggles, gowns and gloves.


Over the course of nine days, GES has worked with National Health Services in London to convert international exhibition center ExCel London into NHS Nightingale Hospital. Teams spent more than 38,000 hours creating one of the world’s largest ICU facilities, which now has 3,700 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen. 

“Exceptional circumstances demand an exceptional response, and GES is incredibly honored to support the NHS and its partners in this way,” said Jason Stead, GES’ managing director for EMEA. 

GES supported the project with flooring, stand/bay partition and build, and electrical installation, while Blitz, a GES company, provided audiovisual infrastructure to facilitate daily briefings and support team communications.

Updated April 9: GES has also partnered with three other organizations to help during this time of great need. The company supported the Javits Center team to help expand its medical station, coordinating logistics and installation for an additional 900 patient rooms and 28 nurses' stations. At McCormick Place in Chicago, GES helped to support construction of a temporary hospital of 2,250 patient rooms. Finally, the company also helped in the activation of the Edmonton EXPO Centre in Canada as a temporary day programming facility for the city's homeless population.

Willwork Global Event Services

Updated April 9: When Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced Baltimore Convention Center would transform exhibit space into medical stations for patients recovering from COVID-19, Willwork Global Event Services hit the ground running to support the efforts. This is just one of many ways the Boston-based general service contractor based is transitioning its event production expertise into areas where fast help is needed.

"We've been aggressively seeking ways to apply our time and talent in support of alternative care operations being set up across the country," says Dave King, president of Willwork. "Partnering with the state of Maryland to build a temporary hospital facility is a perfect fit for our operation and is in line with multiple other projects we are working on across the country."

According to local news reports, the Baltimore alternative care facility is expected to open by April 24.

Does your company have news to share on how you’re helping with hospital buildouts? Please share it with us by emailing Kelsey Ogletree,


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Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact