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Behind The Wheel At The Chicago Auto Show: Massive Setup Process Requires Army Of Workers

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Constructing the Chicago Auto Show is no small feat - it takes an entire army of skilled workers to turn McCormick Place into the nation's largest auto show.

Putting up the lighting is the first step. It's a massive undertaking, with crews working 24-hour shifts. Electricians are brought in for the task by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 134.

"For several days, we had between 100 and 150 electricians here doing all the overhead work," said John Keenor of IBEW Local 134.

Keenor leads the teams who are responsible for making sure all the initial lighting is installed quickly.

"We have a timeframe we need to get that work complete. That way, the booths underneath [the lights] can start building," Keenor said. "We have enough power to light up this booth that would run 40 homes in the Chicagoland area. It's about 48 hours around the clock to get this done - 400 motors, 4,000 feet of truss, probably 500 light fixtures in here to light up all these cars."

After the lights are set up, more workers come in to set up the booths for the manufacturers.

"Just a few days ago, this floor was bare," said Dave Sloan, General Manager of the Chicago Auto Show.

Sloan has been general manager for over a decade. He says shows at McCormick Place are run by trade experts.

"Our convention labor is top-notch. They can get a show like this in, in just seven days," said Sloan. "This is their full-time job. So Chicago convention labor is widely known as some of the best convention labor in all of the country."

Though this show is smaller than previous ones, they're still working with about 670,000 square feet of floor space. And they're dedicating a lot more of that space to their most popular constructions — indoor test-driving tracks.

"We have more indoor test tracks than we've ever had before. We have six of them," Sloan said.

Another major attraction coming to this year's show is the new fleet of electric vehicles - some of which you'll have the opportunity to test-drive.

"There's a lot of vehicles that haven't been seen before and have just been introduced," said Sloan. "A majority of the people who are considering an electric vehicle in their next purchase have never experienced one."

He says that the multiple electric vehicle tracks should help consumers with their decision on whether to go electric.

At their show this past summer, 40% of the people who attended took a test drive or ride in a vehicle.

"That's huge for these companies. It means so much more when you can get somebody in the car, moving. So, that's kind of where shows are going right now," said Sloan.


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