Pressure is building on Chicago to find a way to keep the 2012 and 2015 NPE shows.
On Nov. 11, news leaked out that the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society will hold its 2012 gathering in Las Vegas instead of Chicago, because of the high cost of labor at Chicago's McCormick Place.
The annual HIMSS show draws 24,000 delegates and generates about $52 million in spending locally. That's pretty significant — but not nearly as important as NPE, which this year generated $95.3 million in direct spending in Chicago.
HIMSS rotates its show: The 2008 event was held in Orlando, Fla., this year's was in Chicago, in 2010 it will be in Atlanta, and 2011 it's back to Orlando. Chicago's next opportunity was in 2012 — but not anymore. HIMSS exhibitors complained that they had to pay 4-10 times as much to exhibit this year in McCormick Place as they did last year in Orlando.
The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. is getting close to a decision on the location for the next two NPE shows. SPI previously has said it would have a decision by the end of the year, but we might know in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, Chicago's city hall and convention center are giving NPE extraordinary attention. The Chicago Tribune reported Nov. 11 that just weeks ago, Mayor Richard Daley told the newspaper's editorial board that he will seek “a major overhaul” in Chicago's convention business. The paper also noted that two months ago, in an effort to cut costs and become more competitive, McCormick Place fired two-thirds of its electricians.
Chicago's news media have caught wind of the pending NPE decision, and they smell blood. The city is smarting from its losing bid for the 2016 Olympics. Now the focus is on what's wrong with the city's tourism sector — and the cost of exhibiting at McCormick Place is in the bull's-eye.
McCormick has always been an expensive place to hold a trade show — that's not a secret. But the recession has made this a critical issue.
The $345.39 that Tim Hanrahan paid for four cases of Pepsi products at NPE2009 — a story told first in a Sept. 14 Plastics News Perspective column — is a symbol of the problem. Last week, Chicago's CBS TV affiliate picked up on the example, saying it “could cost Chicago a major trade show.”
That report succeeded in getting a comment out of Daley about the high prices at McCormick Place: “There has to be reorganization at McCormick Place ... because it deals with less and less shows coming in town.”
Change is coming … but labor unions are big supporters of Daley. Can Chicago change fast enough to keep NPE?
And if it doesn't, how will the show change as a result of a move to Orlando?
Loepp is managing editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.”