State Fair Starting Point for Firm in Special Events

Article excerpt

Pro Staffing Inc. had been in business less than four months when Mark Near, vice-president of operations, bid for the temporary employment service contract for the 1988 State Fair of Oklahoma.

Although the fledgling company had some experience in providing janitorial, landscaping and industrial personnel, bidding for the state fair was the firm's first stab at staffing a "special event."

Several larger, more experienced companies also were vying for the fair, but Pro Staffing landed the contract which required Near to find 250 employees to work 50,000 hours over the 17-day fair.

The fair was Pro Staffing's first special event venture, but not its last. This year Near's company has staffed some portion of nearly every major event in the Oklahoma City area - Aero Space America, U.S. Olympic Festival '89, University of Oklahoma football games, the Guthrie Centennial, and this year's state fair.

"In the special events market the state fair is the largest event there is for temporary services," said Near, who with his father, Harry, founded Pro Staffing Inc. in May of 1988. "Sure, we wanted the fair contract, but we wouldn't have been crushed had we not won the bid."

Although Near, 25, remained optimistic during the bid process, he was very aware that nine other companies also were vying for the lucrative contract, including the firm which had held the contract for the previous three years.

"We did not get the green light to staff the event until three weeks before," Near reminisced. "We had to find and screen 250 reliable people by the opening Friday."

Although Near admitted it was an overwhelming task, hiring and screening so many potential employees, the end result was a large pool of people to draw on for staffing the company's clerical and industrial divisions.

"We have many people who just want to work special events," Near said. "We get young and old, college students, retirees and even whole families. Working special events offers those people who don't want a day to day routine all the time, a variety of jobs."

For this year's fair, Pro Staffing is supplying parking attendants, maintenance and set-up crews and, along with Waste Management of Oklahoma City, Inc., clean-up crews.

Pro Staffing is the first outside firm to handle ticket sales and collection for the University of Oklahoma home football games at Owen Field. Until this season, alumni or students handled tickets, but the arrangement was not convenient for fans. It seems the volunteers were just as anxious to see the game as the fans.

"The volunteer ticket sellers and takers would only be on hand an hour before kickoff and a short while after kickoff," Near said. "Then they would shut the gates. Our employees stay through the third quarter to catch stragglers."

Although Pro Staffing appeared to be going places following it's inaugural year of operation, the peaks and valleys of special event staffing, put a financial stress on the young company.

One of the idiosyncracies of special event staffing, Near explained, is that a lot of cash is needed up front for developing bids, screening, hiring and paying employees, and for general office operations. …