Trade Shows Threaten Chicago Exodus

McPier needs an overhaul, groups say

Friday, Apr 2, 2010  |  Updated 12:00 PM CDT
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A shot of McCormick center.

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A group of trade show managers threatened McCormick Place honchos and Illinois politicians to clean up their act or risk losing more business.

Individuals representing five major trade shows, which represent about $292 million in spending, met with a 16-member legislative panel Thursday at the Thompson Center and told them that overlapping union jurisdictions and laughably high costs are going to drive the trade show business straight out of the city, according to Crain's Chicago Business

And fast.

“We are in a crisis mode, with a very tight window,” Mia Rampersad, a vice-president at the Rosemont-based International Housewares Assn. said at the meeting.

The housewares show attracts more than 60,000 attendees and generates about $75 million in spending. But Rampersad said her group is already discussing moving the show to a new city because of the high cost.

Another manager said service needs to be improved, too.

"It's not only pricing but also the hassle factor," said Mary Pat Heftman, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association said, according to the Sun-Times. “I feel the pressure more than you can imagine in terms of what our exhibitors are experiencing, and they come back and express to me the frustration"

Two show have already fled: The Healthcare Information  & Management Systems Society and the Society of Plastics Industry Inc.

Legislators are considering a few options to overhaul The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, a joint venture between the state and city that makes money by charging for services like electrical installation and food.

No decisions have been made. Another panel is scheduled for Wednesday.

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