A trade show that spent about $40,000 for electrical services in another city got charged $240,000 for the services in Chicago's McCormick Place. Another show organizer complained that it recently spent $125,000 on sandwich and salad-bar lunch and beverage services at McCormick, which covered 2,600 lunches over three days. (I'll save you the trouble, that's $48 per meal). The cost of putting on trade shows at McCormick Place is in the spotlight again, with a new Chicago Tribune story today, headlined "Trade shows: High prices at McCormick Place costing Chicago." The story starts with a plastics machinery company example, but it's not from a company that had a bad experience at NPE2009. The source this time is Steve Maguire, who is connected to two auxiliary equipment companies that made a high-profile decision not to exhibit at NPE this year. He cited a number of examples of charges that he felt were too high in Chicago. For example, it cost $22,000 to move equipment from the truck yard near McCormick to its exhibit space and back -- which he said was more than triple the cost of shipping the equipment all the way from Baltimore. "You just can't stand being taken advantage of, and that's what they do there," Maguire told the Tribune. "When the economy got so bad, this was an easy one to cut." The Tribune story notes that the absence of Maguire Products Inc. and Novatec Inc. from NPE this year "cost Chicago about $600,000 in potential spending." Plastics News' story from April had said that under normal circumstances, the firms would have spent around $750,000. There's no major new ground broken on this Tribune story today, but the focus on costs -- breaking down some specific examples that typical readers can understand -- is interesting. One snippet of potential news: Phil Brandl, president of the International Housewares Association, said that group's annual show is booked at McCormick Place only through 2011. "Though it has made longer-term commitments in the past, it is now waiting longer to sign on, keeping an eye on the competitive landscape," the story notes. To put it all of the discussion about high cost into perspective, several sources in the Tribune story pointed out that Chicago is not alone in charging a lot for various services at trade shows. "We're not that out of whack with what our competitors are charging, but we are looking at ways to lower costs," said David Causton, McCormick Place general manager. "Chicago is not the only convention center in the world to have what we would consider ridiculously high food prices," said Peter Eelman, vice president of exhibitions for the Association For Manufacturing Technology, which puts on the IMTS show every two years in McCormick Place. "But if there is an opportunity to turn things around, that would be an area to turn around quickly. It would really demonstrate a commitment to changing things," he said.
McCormick costs in the spotlight
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