Forte Specialty Contractors

Forte Specialty ContractorsForte Specialty Contractors uses its design-build capabilities to create unique experiences for major entertainment companies.

By Jim Harris

Forte Specialty Contractors’ projects are more than just simple structures. “We have the ability to create amazing experiences,” says Scott Acton, CEO and founder of the Las Vegas-based company.

The company specializes in designing, fabricating and building restaurants, entertainment facilities and special attractions. Its design/build capabilities make it highly sought after by many of the nation’s largest entertainment and hospitality companies, including Dreamworks, Disney, Universal, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts.Forte Specialty Contractors info box

“Entertainment companies around the world are trying to get out of the design-bid-build model and move to the design-build model – they are giving us the recipe of the look, feel, taste and smell,” Acton says. “We are the experts in delivering a project from rendering to ribbon cutting. Everything your customers are going to interact with, we’re going to have our hands on.”

The company self-performs metal stud, drywall, painting and theming work. “Our clients don’t have to worry about the channels of multiple suppliers for the end-product,” he adds. “We are a one-stop shop.”

Although Forte self-performs large portions of its projects, the company has maintained long-term relationships with architects, engineers and other tradespeople by following its mission statement to “do the right thing, even when it costs us money,” Acton says. “We want to treat others the way we want to be treated,” he adds. “We believe that supporting our subcontractors, giving them the information they need to do the job well and paying them in a timely manner can be the difference between a successful job and a failure.”

Creating a Galaxy

Forte’s design/build capabilities enable the company to deliver projects to clients on time and on budget. “We have an approach to crafting design so that the details fit into the budget,” Acton says.

One recent example of the company’s success in design, fabrication and construction started in November 2016. That was when the company was hired by Walt Disney Imagineering to transform the Tower of Terror attraction at Disneyland’s California Adventure theme park into “Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout,” a new ride experience.

Working with a set of renderings, Forte budgeted, designed, fabricated, engineered, delivered and installed thousands of custom ride elements for the new attraction in just nine months. The company’s in-house design, project management and fabrication teams created hundreds of pages of shop drawings, 2,785 fabrication drawings and more than 8 miles of custom fabricated pieces. The 7,000-square-foot attraction includes 10 scenes and features animatronics.

“Building massive vitrines to encase intergalactic props, holding rooms where an animatronic figure raccoon is breaking superheroes out of prison and giant aluminum cabinets to house some of Marvel Comics’ best-known collectibles all make for an interesting project,” Acton says. “The rare nature of this project is what made it incredible.”

The attraction, which opened in May 2017 to correspond with the release of Marvel Studios’ second “Guardians of the Galaxy” film, was the fastest attraction ever delivered for Disney, Acton says.

Forte recently began work on another high-profile project. The company is building a “Hell’s Kitchen”-themed restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip, where the Fox Network reality show of the same name will be filmed. Work on the project began in July; the project has a drop-dead completion date of Dec. 20, after which the show will begin filming.

“We were hired to creatively solve budget challenges and still deliver on time. Our client’s choice was to go back to a design/architect team and spend more on design, or have a design/build partner in us,” Acton says. “[The client] said Forte is the only one who can self-perform all elements in-house and control time and money. That’s what sets us apart.”

A Family Legacy

Specialty contracting runs in Acton’s family. His grandfather Hubert Acton’s company, Acton Animation, worked on theme park attractions including Disneyland’s Matterhorn and Pirates of the Caribbean rides. Hubert’s son, Ken Acton, took the reins of the company in 1982. His pioneering work in animatronics includes the Jaws attraction at Universal Studios.

Scott Acton started working for the company at age 16, sweeping floors on job sites and helping to maintain the Jaws animatronic shark. Scott Acton started his own fabrication and contracting company, which was sold in 2007 to an equity company. He started Forte Specialty Contractors shortly afterward.

After opening its doors, Forte grew to more than $50 million in revenue. The company continues to grow both in revenue and physical footprint, since it plans to open a design office in California next year. “The biggest entertainment companies in the world are there, and a lot of our work is theme-park related,” Acton says. 

“Steady, controlled growth is the name of the game for us,” he adds. “We’re not actively looking for acquisitions, but would consider joint ventures with strategic partners in the future.”

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