Trade show joins others considering leaving Chicago

January 20, 2010 3:20:19 PM PST
McCormick Place could be losing even more business.The annual Home and Housewares Show says it is considering going elsewhere after making McCormick Place its home for 70 years.

The show's organizers says McCormick Place's high costs are not competitive with convention venues in other cities.

A pending decision on the housewares show comes after several other trade shows have recently pulled out of McCormick place because of the costs.

The Housewares show is expected to bring 60,000 attendees in March.

ABC7 is told the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority already gave concessions for this year's show.

The costs to hold a convention at McCormick Place are being held to even more scrutiny as organizations struggle with membership and industries are hit by the recession.

The International Home and Housewares Show will continue at Chicago's McCormick Place through 2011, but after that it's not clear.

The Board of the International Housewares Association is considering taking to show to a less expensive venue.

The association's president issued a statement saying in part:

"We encourage all stakeholders involved in the McCormick Place business model to participate in reducing costs so that Chicago can become competitive with other viable convention centers," said Pres. Phil Brandl.

"Let's face reality, anytime a large show of this magnitude's contract is up. they're going to look around. Why wouldn't you? You would. I would. It's just good business sense," said Juan Ochoa, CEO of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority.

Ochoa says the municipal corporation needs help from the state to restructure its debt and even more concessions from labor unions in order to compete with other city's convention centers.

He also says some other convention centers get subsidies from local government. McCormick Place does not.

"The business model that we have is broken. It's inconsistent with all of our competitors," Ochoa said.

Along with the Housewares show, the National Restaurant Association show is looking at other options. The restaurant show is committed to Chicago through 2011.

Last year, the Society of the Plastics Industry was among two shows that announced plans to take its convention out of Chicago.

And 2004 was the last year for a hardware show in Chicago. The National Hardware Show is now held in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ochoa says it will take a cooperative effort to make Chicago competitive for convention business.

"It underscores the importance of the General Assembly, in terms of them acting quickly because time is not our friend. We need to move very in order to keep these shows here," he said.

Ochoa says overhead has already been cut by freezing non-union salaries and reducing full-time staff from 700 to 400.

He also says it's in the state and city's best interests to keep conventions rolling through McCormick Place.

It's estimated visitors contributed nearly $12 billion to Chicago's economy in 2008.