Things Are Looking Up at the Office

NeoCon, Chicago's mega-trade fair for commercial interior design, is branching out to L.A.

"This will be our first show on the road," said spokesman Christopher Kennedy about NeoCon West, scheduled for Thursday and Friday at the Los Angeles Convention Center as part of an expanded WestWeek design celebration.

Los Angeles, he said, is the place to be these days.

"We are seeing Los Angeles- and California-based designers working all over the world, producing everything from chairs to museums," he said. "It's a vibrant design community, and we want to be part of that."

Kennedy is executive vice president of Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. NeoCon, which celebrates its 30th anniversary June 8-10 at the Merchandise Mart, attracted more than 43,000 designers, managers and office furniture dealers to Chicago last year.

NeoCon West is also aiming high, opening with a welcome by Mayor Richard Riordan and keynote address by urban analyst Joel Kotkin, who will look at "L.A.: Design Capital of the 21st Century."

In addition to 200 exhibitors and thousands of products, the schedule includes seminars with guest experts on office design, health-care design, hospitality design, specialty design and facilities management, among other things.

With short courses that touch on matters from the green office to managing stress, NeoCon West offers a microcosm of a rapidly changing work force, Kennedy said.

"The function of work has changed so dramatically--you're not just in an office five days a week. You may be at home, in a plane, in a hotel room, on the road."

In addition to changing technology, today's human resources specialists are dealing with the first work generation that is 50% women, he noted.

"Issues like day care and flexible hours become considerations," he said.

NeoCon West is targeting small businesses.

"For those small-business folks, the process by which they just acquire furniture and decorate is almost impossible," Kennedy said. "This show will give them a one-stop shop, to see the products and acquire knowledge."

With its focus on office furnishings and systems, NeoCon West is expected to complement the traditional WestWeek offering at West Hollywood's Pacific Design Center from Wednesday to Friday, which spotlights high-end residential furniture and design.

Admission to the NeoCon West exhibits for nonregistered attendees is $20. For more information, call (800) 677-6278.

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