CFL News
June 20, 2012

Trade shows commit to Chicago after McPier work-rule changes

Two new trade shows will bring a combined 31,500 attendees and $55.6 million in spending in the latest boost to Chicago's convention industry

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

By Fran Spielman

Two shows with a combined 31,500 attendees and $55.6 million in spending are coming to McCormick Place, thanks to work-rule changes that will make the convention center and Navy Pier more competitive.

One day after resolving a jurisdictional dispute between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134 and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 2 by allowing stagehands to complete work previously reserved for electricians, McCormick Place had something to show for it.

The American Incentive and Business Travel Market announced that it was bringing its three-day show and 1,500 meeting planners to Chicago in June 2013, 2015 and 2017, alternating with Orlando, Fla.

The event will tie up 7,000 hotel “room nights” and result in $10 million “direct expenditures” over the three years, officials said.

After a lengthy hiatus, Book Expo America also has agreed to return to Chicago for a three-day show May 12-14, 2016. That show will bring 30,000 attendees to McCormick Place using 24,000 hotel room nights.

Reed Exhibitions’ C2E2: Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo — with direct expenditures of $37 million annually — will remain in Chicago, at least through 2014.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the three shows are only the beginning for Chicago, now that the electricians and stage hands have resolved their jurisdictional dispute.

McCormick Place and Navy Pier will be able to compete for “mid-sized events that are more meetings than trade shows” that would not even consider Chicago before, he said.

“The Microsoft show — everybody says, ‘They won’t even come talk to us.’ Remove that barrier so we can start that conversation,” Emanuel said.

“We may lose for other reasons. But, I can’t even get into a conversation based on the old [labor] model. Now, I’ve given Don Welsh and all the others at Chicago’s tourism and convention office a mandate. I’ve removed that barrier. Get the phone calls going, the emails sent and let’s start that conversation marketing. Nobody can say that, because of a set of old rules” Chicago was not competitive.

He added, “We get more shows, more construction, more occupancy and everybody is a winner.”

McPier CEO Jim Reilly noted that Reed is one of the biggest, if not the biggest private show-management companies in the world.

“They had abandoned Chicago, basically, because they weren’t getting the service they needed here,” Reilly said. “Now, it’s not just these two [new] shows. Reed, a very big, very prominent, very successful show-management company is back and, we hope that she’ll be back for another press conference soon to announce even more shows.”

Terry Allen, business manager of Local 134, was asked what the electricians union got in return for giving up work to the stagehands.

His answer was two-fold: First, the union got a 10-year agreement with McPier that “guarantees the historic work that Local 134 performed down there. . . . We never had that before.”

But, even more important, McCormick Place and Navy Pier will now be free to compete on a whole new level.

“In the spirit of trying to get more shows, [we’re] building up more man-hours. Let’s say we did 420,000 man-hours in 2010. If we start bringing in more shows, two years from now, we’re gonna look back and say, ‘Now, we’re doing 600,000 man-hours. The stage hands are gonna do more. But as they do more, so do our electricians,” Allen said. “It’s not a catchphrase. It’s gonna be a mathematical fact.”

With Gov. Pat Quinn standing at his side, Emanuel was asked how much more attractive Chicago would be as a convention center, if the governor signed the bill on his desk authorizing a land-based Chicago casino.

Quinn is withholding his support, in part, to strengthen the bill’s ethics requirements.

“Look. The governor and I have a lot to work through,” Emanuel said. “He has to look at the state. I’ve got to look at the city of Chicago. He agrees with me [that it’s] essential for Chicago to have a casino. It’s important for the job creation and the ability to do school modernization with the revenue.”

“He has other issues that I don’t have to face,” he said. “We are trying to work through something that’s been discussed for 22 years. We are closer than we’ve ever been. But, we’re not over the goal line yet.”

Despite an invitation from the mayor to join him at the podium for casino questions, Quinn hung back and watched Emanuel handle incoming fire.