by Kaylee Hultgren | May 12, 2010
Last week, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation aimed at reforming the convention business and labor practices at Chicago's McCormick Place, after a series of recommendations were made by the interim board of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which governs the facility. The Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau expects Gov. Pat Quinn to sign the bill into law after it has gone through a certification process, which will take up to 30 days. Significant changes to business at McCormick Place include the following: Exhibitors will be allowed to do their own work at their booths, regardless of the size of the booth, and may now use power hand tools to perform that work; the window of straight-time hours for union workers has been extended to 6 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday through Friday (previously it was 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.); crew sizes will be determined by the nature of the task, as opposed to set minimums; and Focus One no longer will be the exclusive electrical service provider of McCormick Place. In addition, a trustee will be appointed to implement these changes over the next 18 months. What was not included in the approved legislation was the call to make all MPEA workers public employees. This concession was made so that general services contractors would not be liable for workers' pensions, according to David Causton, general manager of McCormick Place. Moreover, the bureau has commenced an outreach campaign that seeks to educate current and prospective customers on the reforms and the attractiveness of Chicago as a convention destination. Once the governor signs the bill, the bureau will begin an American Airlines-sponsored road show to major cities, such as New York and Washington, D.C. Customer and industry response to the legislation has been very positive, according to CCTB president and CEO Tim Roby. "The legislation will improve business," he said. "We've already had some shows agree to bring in more of their own equipment and expand their show size. In addition to retaining our current legacy customers, other groups who haven't yet been to Chicago have expressed interest in coming."