City risks losing NRA show without reform

May 24, 2010 3:42:31 PM PDT
For 61 years, the National Restaurant Association has come to McCormick Place to showcase everything from culinary demonstrations to kitchen innovations. It's a favorite for chefs and restauranteurs from around the world but the show could become the latest convention to leave Chicago.

Governor Quinn did not sign the McCormick Place overhaul legislation Monday but he said he is confident the show will be in Chicago for decades to come.

Officials with the National Restaurant Association insist the bill must be signed in order for them to return to Chicago.

The National Restaurant Association show has been held in Chicago consecutively since 1950. It brings in over $100 million annually in revenue to the city.

The restaurant association was counting on Gov. Pat Quinn to sign the McCormick Place overhaul legislation this morning. But the governor says he is still looking into the bill.

"I think it's important to have proper oversight of what goes on at the convention process there. We have had a serious problem of embezzlement, I guess you would call it, and it's a public agency. We sure don't want that to happen at McCormick Place or anywhere else," said Quinn.

The decision on whether the show stays in Chicago or moves to another city after 2011 is up to the restaurant board and will be reviewed by Mary Pat Heftman, executive vice president of the convention.

Heftman says she will review all of the other cities bidding for the convention and make the final recommendation.

"McCormick Place does not receive operating subsidies. Most of the facilities in the country receive an operating subsidy which allows them to operate their services at a much lower cost," said Heftman.

Heftman says the bill will allow exhibitors to do more setup work on their own which they cannot do because of union rules. That would help bring costs down. The show covers 6 million square feet.

"Without signing the bill which has passed the House and Senate, I cannot endorse Chicago as the most viable option for the restaurant's show," said Heftman.

Heftman says signing the bill will provide McCormick Place with more jobs and bring in more conventions because organizations that previously would not look at Chicago would now consider the city as a possibility. She says the bill must be signed soon.


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