Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Should McCormick Place be privatized???

UPDATE 12:09 PM This was in the Crain's article that I already excerpted below. I kinda brushed this off! With a hat-tip to Rich Miller of The Capitol Fax
Mayor Richard M. Daley is pushing what could be called “privatization lite” as a solution for Chicago’s McCormick Place, which has lost several key conventions in the past few months.

Mr. Daley told reporters in Washington, D.C., Tuesday afternoon that he’s not proposing to hand control of McCormick Place to a private operator under a long-term lease, as he has done with the Chicago Skyway and city parking meters in deals that reaped billions of dollars in upfront payments for the city.

Rather, he’s talking about short-term leases of individual convention halls within the complex to show operators—for the duration of a particular convention.

“You could lease it for seven days,” Mr. Daley told reporters in the nation’s capital, where the Supreme Court is hearing a case involving Chicago’s handgun law. “A lot of show places do that.”

Mr. Daley said show operators would be responsible for furnishing all services required for a convention, including labor, utilities and catering. They would have “full responsibility for all the payments inside their leased piece of property,” he said. “They’d pay for everything, not inside the building but inside the hall.”
With more from the Trib. Also excerpted on CapFax:
The goal would be to cut expenses for exhibitors, many of whom have chafed at costs stemming from the in-house electrical service and from union work rules that prevent exhibitors from doing a lot of their own booth set-up. The city has lost two major shows that complained of high costs, and several more are on the fence.
Stated earlier on this blog, the main reason Chicago is losing some convention business. We're in the climate where there has to be some changes made. I just hope there is some will to make those changes.

Daley is looking for another opportunity to privatize a public entity:
The mayor says the agency that runs McCormick Place should be completely privatized.

He says that private companies are just more motivated to keep customers happy.. So they do a better job.

“Remember, government doesn’t' have customer satisfaction. Only every four years, you don't like the guy, you throw them out. That's it,” Daley said. “But the rest of the employees stay forever. They produce, they're fine. If they're not nice to you they still stay. That's what is wrong with McCormick Place. I don’t' think the government can manage that any more. It has to be a realignment of that. Bring the private sector in and you manage it. Get out of the business.”
You know I like the thinking. There has been groans with regards to privatization of the parking meters for instance. This is possibly one area where privatization could do some good. Of course I say this knowing that I need to find some evidence of a privately run convention center being run successfully.

BTW, McCormick Place and Navy Pier are under the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority. More from Crain's:
The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which operates the convention center, is undergoing a complete overhaul of its operations. Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation to replace the agency's 13-member board with an interim panel of seven members.

In a recent interview with Crain’s editorial board, McPier officials, including CEO Juan Ochoa, outlined steps they have taken to reorganize the agency. That includes reducing staff to 400 employees from 700 over three years.

The authority also has fired a large chunk of its electricians, a key target of complaints from trade show clients.
You know why the mayor and the McPier officials are taking these actions. The city is losing convention business. I've written blogs about this. Some might place blame on organized labor at McPier and the high price of doing business with McPier.

That Crain's article mentioned that the Mayor made his comments on ABC7. You can see that report here!

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