Trade Show Industry Forms Group to Steer McCormick Place Discussions

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Chicago, IL – An informal coalition of 30 leading trade show executives has banded together as Friends of McCormick Place to seek reforms it says are needed to maintain the competitiveness of the nation’s largest convention center. The meeting is set for February 17th.

Friends of McCormick Place is flatly opposed to the controversial proposal made this month by the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority (MPEA) that would overhaul the center’s unions and make them MPEA employees. The proposal, which would require legislative approval by the Illinois legislature, would also allow the MPEA to examine the costs passed on to exhibitors by service contractors. “We are determined to find a solution for adoption of a bill that will ensure shows will stay…not one that will cause more events to leave,” said Ken McAvoy, senior vice president of Reed Exhibitions.

McAvoy was part of a similar informal group of exhibition industry executives called Friends of Javits. In 2007 the group served to voice the views of show organizers in regards to the planned renovation and expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

Exclusives Blasted
The situation in Chicago is different in that it involves operations and costs at McCormick Place rather than the building itself. It is the same, however, in that it involves state and local governments that may have limited experience in the trade show industry.

McAvoy said Friends of McCormick Place recognized the need for changes that would lower the costs of producing trade shows in Chicago. At the same time, they also recognized that labor exclusives would not do the trick. “We do not agree with the position taken on exclusive control of the labor being given to MPEA,” he said. “This has proven to increase costs, not decrease costs, as the market should control establishment of rates and not some government entity.”

An identical stance was taken earlier in the week by the Exhibition Services & Contractors Association (ESCA). The association said any changes at McCormick Place should “embrace a competitive open market rather than eliminating it.”

 

Housewares Show Explores Options
The eventual result of the developing debate among the exhibition industry, government leaders and organized labor continued to be closely watched from all corners. The International Housewares Association (IHA) announced January 20 it would explore other cities as the potential host of the 2012 International Home + Housewares Show, which has been held in Chicago since 1939. The IHA said that while it preferred to remain in the Windy City, it was covering its bases in the event a solution to the cost of labor situation at McCormick Place could not be adequately addressed.

Reach Ken McAvoy at (203) 840-5681 or kmcavoy@reedexpo.com