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Convention a big stage for Maryland-based Hargrove

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Maryland-based company is taking on one of the most high-profile jobs in the nation this week — transforming three huge sites into a nominating convention for the president of the United States in full view of a nightly television audience.

James Proctor, a freelance employee for Hargrove, works on lighting for the Hargrove lounge at the 2012 Democratic National Convention at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C.

Hargrove Inc., headquartered in Lanham, is managing the event services for the Democratic National Convention for the first time.

More than 35,000 people — including 15,000 members of the media — are at this year’s convention, which began Tuesday and runs through Thursday.

“It has always been a goal of the company to participate in any of the conventions for the national parties,” said Tim McGill, Hargrove’s chief executive officer. “It is a great opportunity for us to be involved.”

As the lead event service provider for the convention, Hargrove is responsible for project management, scheduling, design, decor and graphics for convention events, set for three different sites: the Time Warner Cable Arena, the Charlotte Convention Center and the Bank of America Stadium, where President Barack Obama is scheduled to accept his party’s nomination on Thursday.

“Not only is Hargrove one of the top general services contractors in the country, but their talent and professionalism is exactly what we look for in a company, and we’re excited to be working with them,” said Joanne Peters, Democratic National Convention Committee press secretary.

Hargrove has been involved with conventions for both parties, including committee events for the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, but this is its first time as general contractor for a convention. It also has planned presidential inaugurals.

“We have been involved in all the inaugurations since [President Harry S] Truman in 1949,” McGill said.

President Bill Clinton’s first inaugural in 1993 was the company’s first time planning the whole event, and since then it has managed lighting, sound and video; provided decorations and signage pointing to the events; and building floats for all the subsequent inaugurations.

Most recently, Hargrove was a general contractor and service provider for the last global summits hosted by the United States, including the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago and the G-8 summit at Camp David.

For the 2012 Democratic Convention, Hargrove partnered with companies including Rodgers Builders, Hunt Construction Group and H.J. Russell and Co. to handle everything from construction to the logistics of traffic movement.

More than 350 employees in Charlotte and Maryland worked on this year’s convention, but McGill could not estimate the number of hours put into the production of the convention.

“We actually have been working on it since last year,” McGill said, “so, we had full time staff on Charlotte since October helping plan it with DNCC.”

Hargrove would not say how much their DNC contract was worth, however DNC Chief Operating Officer Theo LeCompte told the Charlotte Observer that the Democratic National Convention Committee budgeted $12 million — split among different contractors — to build out the arena and to get the convention center ready for media use. The convention committee contracted 14 companies to handle the event.

Managing big events has become a bit of a niche since McGill and his wife, Carla Hargrove McGill, the company’s president and chief operating officer, became the third generation to lead Hargrove in 2008. Hargrove McGill now owns the majority of the company.

Hargrove has doubled its size in four years on the strength of growth in the company’s three divisions, trade shows, exhibits and events, McGill said.

Hargrove handles logistics for more than a 1,000 events a year, according to the company’s public relations office. About 100 of those are national and international conventions from clients such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Other clients include QuadraMed, Smithsonian, the Nielsen Company, American Society of Association Executives and the National Science Teachers Association.

Hargrove is privately held and does not discuss its annual revenues, McGill said. According to a LexisNexis search, Hargrove’s net sales for 2011 were nearly $56.5 million.

Hargrove operates out of a 365,000-square-foot facility east of the Capital Beltway, which includes 35 woodworking, metalworking and plastics production workshops.

It has 250 full-time employees and 100 to 150 part-timers who are called for on-site assignments, McGill said. The typical workers at Hargrove are unionized — a standard business practice in that industry, he said.

With more than 50 union contracts across the country, McGill said that the company has a good relationship with labor, among the Democratic Party’s staunchest supporters.

For the convention, Hargrove also hired local companies and freelance workers in North Carolina, a right-to-work state.

A DNCC official said that they try to use union labor where available, but they also seek to maximize their use of local workers. Several of the 14 companies that received DNC contracts had ties with the Carolinas or impressed the committee members.

“Our goal was to select firms that represent the best of the Carolinas and the diversity of America,” said DNCC Chief Executive Officer Steve Kerrigan in a news release.

At this convention, Hargrove also strived to fulfill the Democratic Committee and Host Committee goals of involving local, minority and woman-owned businesses and creating jobs for residents, McGill said.

“Hargrove, a woman-owned business, recognized the benefits of women and minority-owned businesses,” McGill said. “We have worked diligently to have their vendors or contractors to award contracts to the minority community.”