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Local businesses take hard hit, look to alternatives as CES 2021 goes all virtual |

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Local businesses take hard hit, look to alternatives as CES 2021 goes all virtual

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — CES 2021 kicked off Monday — but it is looking very different because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Everything is virtual. There are no in-person events in Las Vegas, as there normally are, which means some local businesses are being hit hard. But they are coming up with other ways to make some money.

The annual trade show, which normally happens in Vegas, had more than 170,000 attendees last year. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) says that equaled an almost $300 million economic impact, and a lot of that benefited local businesses. 

But with no in-person events this time around, businesses that rely on conventions for revenue are seeing a huge, negative impact.

"It's definitely a struggle," said Jennifer Folk, vice president of Altitude Color Technologies.

Altitude Color Technologies is a local printing company that usually creates custom prints for backdrops, signs and tablecloths for certain vendors at CES. But with a huge chunk of their business gone, Folk says times are tough. She notes the company has found new business alternatives, including in the construction industry.

"We've been able to do some work for them with their wooden signs, signs changing, directional signs, now opening, just a lot of those," Folk shared.

Businesses have struggled for several months due to the pandemic, and the lack of CES visitors hurts even more. Catering company Divine Events is one of them. 

"I stand to lose a business that I have built over 15 years," said Pamela Howatt, owner of Divine Events.

Howatt says they typically make around $300,000 for the whole week of CES, doing catering events for certain companies. So, in order to get at least some revenue, they have started a different kind of delivery service.

"We're mainly doing things like deliveries for companies that are deemed with essential workers, so that's a big part of it," Howatt said.

The LVCVA is also feeling an impact. It finished the nearly $1 billion convention center expansion in December -- which was scheduled to be completed just in time for CES. But for now, it sits empty. 

And with the future of conventions in Las Vegas unclear, everyone has just one wish for CES 2022:

"We're all waiting for it to come back," Folk said.

Both Folk and Howatt say they hope the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine will mean conventions will return sooner, rather than later, to Las Vegas. But that might not be until the summer, or the fall, or even later.

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