Daley Hands Out Trade Show Marching Orders

"If we keep raising the cost here, McCormick Place will be an empty shell," mayor says

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley

    After having two major trade shows abandon Chicago for cheaper pastures, Mayor Richard Daley is now hands-on and calling for change on every level.

    On Tuesday, he gave marching orders to top members of a new task force created to find ways to stop the bleeding.

    "Sometimes you have to hit someone with a hammer," Daley said, telling officials that McCormick Place has a bloated budget, can't support itself and charges more than too many cost-conscious conventions want to spend to be in Chicago.

    "If we keep raising the cost here, McCormick Place will be an empty shell," he said.

    "Sometimes You Have to Hit Someone With a Hammer"

    [CHI] "Sometimes You Have to Hit Someone With a Hammer"
    Mayor Daley says he brought the hammer to his meeting with McCormick Place executives over the huge conventions that have bailed out of Chicago. After the meeting, McCormick CEO Juan Ochoa seemed to still be feeling the whack.

    And while he said "it's basically a management problem," he's calling for change on every level.

    Yet, that management to which the mayor refers is largely clouted in through City Hall and state capitol contacts and contributions, including some well-known political surnames like Sheahan and Degnan, Crain's Chicago Business reported this week.

    Emerging from the mayor's office, it appeared the message was received, but no one was ready to talk publicly about specific solutions.

    "We're committed to improving our product," said McCormick Place CEO Juan Ochoa. "There's a sense of urgency. We're going to get to work really, really quickly here."

    Ochoa confirmed that "everything is on the table."

    Everything, except perhaps another round of union wage and work rule concessions. The head of the Chicago Federation of Labor insists they've been down that road already.

    "I think that the costs that are down there right now are these costs you don't see: the $!38 for a case of Pepsi, the $800 for a refrigerator for five days. Those are concerns and they need to be addressed the same way labor has been addressed over the last 15 years," said CFL President Dennis Gannon.

    Of course, the formula for success is not that simple and will also need a big dose of help from the legislature in the form of tax subsidies and bond restructuring. That's something many of Chicago's competitors already have.

    Earlier this month, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society cited the cost of electrical work in their decision to move their show to Las Vegas.  Days later, a plastics industry trade show said it could save $20 million by moving its convention to Orlando. 

    The city is also in danger of losing the National Restaurant Association convention in 2012, the Chicago Tribune reported, citing sources.