June 11, 2008

The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority in Chicago has signed a new collective bargaining agreement with the Chicago & Northeast Illinois District Council of Carpenters, which represents more trade show workers at McCormick Place than any other union. The new contract, now in effect, expands the window during which standard "straight time" wages apply, eliminates certain "double time" wages, and requires random drug and alcohol testing of union members. "This is a historic agreement because the carpenters union agreed to enter into direct negotiations with the contractors who work at McCormick Place to provide greater flexibility and cost savings to exhibitors on our show floors," David Causton, general manager of McCormick Place, said in a statement.

Days after the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority announced that the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center has generated one million hotel room nights since opening four years ago, food-service workers at the BCEC and the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center voted to authorize a strike against Aramark, the company that provides food service to the centers. Members of Unite HERE Local 26 said Aramark is withholding benefits unjustly from certain workers. An Aramark spokesperson declined to comment on specifics of the negotiations but said the company is talking with the union to resolve the dispute without a work stoppage. No strike date has been set.

The vast majority of the meeting and hospitality infrastructure in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., has been unaffected by this week's severe storms and flooding that have led to a state of emergency in 30 Wisconsin counties. Flooding caused the manmade Lake Delton to drain completely, destroying some lakefront homes and ripping up roads, but the nearby Kalahari Resort reported no damage and no accessibility issues. The Chula Vista Resort, the other major convention destination in the Dells, well north of Lake Delton, was unaffected as well.

The 1893 Fairmont New Orleans hotel, closed since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, will undergo a $100 million redevelopment and reopen in spring 2009 as a Waldorf=Astoria Collection property. The renovation effort will turn what once was a 701-room hotel into a 500-room property, 110 of which will be suites. The Roosevelt, The Waldorf=Astoria Collection, will offer 55,000 square feet of meeting space, including three ballroomsæ-- the 20,000-square-foot Grand, the 13,000-square-foot Imperial and the 6,000-square-foot University.

The 500-room Doubletree Hotel Chicago Magnificent Mile opened last week between Navy Pier and North Michigan Avenue, following a $21 million transformation from the former Chicago City Centre Hotel & Sports Club. All guest rooms have been refurbished. Renovation of the 17,000 square feet of meeting space is nearly complete, with final touches to be added over the next couple of months. All 13 meeting rooms currently are available to groups, however. Guests are given complimentary access to the Lakeshore Athletic Club, a 65,000-square-foot fitness center within the complex. A new restaurant will open at the hotel in the fall.

Last Thursday, New York Gov. David Paterson appointed Robert Wilmers, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Buffalo, N.Y.-based M&T Bank Corp., as the sole chairman of New York City's Empire State Development Corp., effective mid-July. The ESDC is responsible for New York City's Jacob K. Javits Center expansion and the proposed Moynihan Station development, among others projects. Prior to the appointment, company leadership was divided by upstate and downstate chairs, a measure put in place by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Also on Thursday, Dan Gundersen, who currently holds the upstate chair position, announced his resignation. Former downstate chairman Patrick Foye quit in March, following Spitzer's departure from office. Wilmers will be based in Buffalo, N.Y., and will begin a search for two people to run the upstate and downstate divisions; they will report directly to him.

The Green Meetings Industry Council and VisitDenmark are collaborating on an initiative known as Meeting the Future. Kicked off to coincide with the United Nations World Environment Day, the plan is designed to consolidate worldwide sustainability efforts by meetings-industry professionals and organizations. VisitDenmark has appointed a Meeting the Future steering committee whose members will prepare an industry position paper, to be presented in December 2009 at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. The committee soon will send out invitations to industry associations and organizations to participate in the process.

The North American Chapter of the International Association of Conference Centers has formed a task force to evaluate the technology being provided by IACC-member properties. "Our goal is to ensure that IACC membership technology criteria are always on the cutting edge of what meeting planners and attendees require," said Neil Pompan, president of IACC North America and vice president of EMCVenues Consulting Solutions. The task force is expected to make recommendations for minimum and ideal requirements relating to sound, lighting, computer technology and presentation technology that will apply to conference rooms as part of IACC's Universal Criteria for membership.

Hilton Hotels Corp. will launch 30 Hampton Inn Hotels in the U.K. and 25 Hilton Garden Inns in Turkey over the next five years. The total cost of the new properties is expected to be US$1 billion. The company has reached a management deal with HLH, the firm that will build the U.K. properties, and with the Kosifler Group, which will develop the Turkey hotels.