Illinois senate approves McCormick Place cost-cutting bill

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USA – A new bill set to reduce costs and expand exhibitors’ rights at Chicago McCormick Place has been approved by the Illinois Senate.

Passed by a vote of 51 to six, the bill would rearrange costs to draw more exhibitions and conferences to the venue. McCormick Place has been enduring complaints from customers about being overpriced, and has lost at least one major event to a less expensive city.

If the bill passes, former MPEA CEO Jim Reilly will be appointed trustee of the venue to oversee operations during an 18-month transition period. He will also have to select and hire a private manager for the venue.

Although the venue would retain its unions, customers would be able to do their own work regardless of booth size, and hire outside electrical and food service contractors. Also, labour rules would be introduced to reduce crew sizes and require less overtime pay.

Under the new bill the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau would be reduced from 100 to 25 members, with a limited number of places for representatives from each segment of the tourism business.

The bill now goes to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn for final approval.

Chairman of the Interim Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) Board, John Gates, says: “This is a victory for our customers, our economy and the working people of Illinois. I urge governor Quinn to sign this bill into law quickly. Every day we delay will cost Illinois jobs.

“When he does, it will be a new day in Chicago and we will have market offerings that no one will be able to top.”

Along with the other changes would come a rise in taxes for transport from the city’s airports, with 75 per cent of the money supporting marketing campaigns for McCormick place and 25 per cent to promote a different convention centre in Rosemont.

The tax would mostly be paid by out-of-towners, with taxis charged US$4 per trip from an airport and buses charged $18 to 54, depending on size.

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