Venues | Exhibition World| May 2011 | ThE MagazinE for 16ThE global ExhibiTion coMMuniTy WWW.ExhibiTion-World.nET TVS Design, headquartered in Atlanta, USA, is one of those companies you have likely never heard of, but whose products you may have experienced on several occasions.The architecture and design firm, responsible for Chicago's McCormick Place and Walter E Washington Convention Centre in the US, Dubai Tower in the UAE and Beijing's New China International Exhibition Centre in China among other international venues, holds significant responsibility for the international exhibition and convention landscape as it exists today. The firm found its feet with the Georgia World Congress in 1974 when associate principal Robert Svedburg was six years old. "That was our first convention centre job, and one of the first modern US style convention centres," he says. Today, projects include expansion work on Detroit's Cobo Centre, home of the North American Auto show, and a major new project in Nashville; the Music City Centre, alongside other smaller developments. But it's the development in India and South America that TVS is focused on today: countries many in the international events business would love to enter, with annual GDP growth rates approaching double-figures, crucially held back by poor venues and infrastructure.A lot of it has to do with not achieving the right funding models, says Svedburg. The creeping recognition of the need for improved infrastructure may be there, but not the money that puts the spades in the ground.Spades on standbyLook no further than India and South America, where beside the continuing clamour for improved infrastructure, modern international venues in cities including Mumbai and Delhi are long overdue.Grand designsEW speaks to venue design company TVS Design and finds inadequate funding models are holding back venue development in the countries that need it most.The Nashville Music City Center"India is attempting to push projects through via public-private partnerships (PPP); giving development rights for commercial development in exchange for someone building an exhibition holding," says Svedburg.The same applies to Brazil, he claims, but as with India, public sector buy-in is not forthcoming. "The Central and South American market is pretty undeveloped. We're seeing customers interested in both areas but it's very hard to turn interest into buildings because they don't have a funding model like we do in the United States and Europe. In both places the industry has grown up around a very basic facility model, and as a result they haven't got a complex market in place yet."Typically in the US, public funding for these projects is raised through dedicated taxes, hotel surcharge taxes, a rental car tax and entertainment tax on restaurants. "It's relatively easy for our municipalities to raise very large sums of money to do these things. It doesn't come out of a general fund," observes Svedburg.On the private side, companies that have had success raising the funds to build new venues are the hotel companies, which use the exhibition space as a way to drive business to the hotel rooms and from value-added projects such as tours.Convincing the councilsAnd then there's the hybrid model. The Los Angeles Convention Centre being mooted for development by AEG would be created through a combination of two models. The NFL stadium/arena side would be funded privately by the developer, but the city will need to raise a bond for the exhibition/convention element, which AEG claims it will guarantee. "There's a lot more interest in the PPP model as it gets harder to raise the huge sums of money needed to be able to do this," says Svedburg. "It's a question of if the revenue streams on the private side are really enough to justify the investment in the build," he said. The majority of TVS's projects are carried out in partnership with local design bureaus and institutes. TVS does the conceptual work while local firms handle the construction and tendering side of the project, remaining involved to pass judgment on what works and what doesn't. "We take pride in making the buildings work, but keeping them beautiful at the same time," says Svedburg.Let's hope the people responsible for funding these new projects in the emerging markets see that value too.
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