The plastics industry played a key role in jump-starting the reforms at Chicago's McCormick Place that Illinois legislators approved yesterday. The proof -- the plastics group is actually mentioned in the law itself. The bill became law yesterday when the Legislature overturned Gov. Pat Quinn's veto. The legislation caps labor costs and let exhibitors do their own set-up instead of using convention center union workers. It also doubles the ground transportation tax charged on cab rides to and from the airports. The Senate voted 51-2 Thursday afternoon to override Quinn's veto. The House followed soon after with a 93-19 vote, making the bill law. It's safe to say that this wouldn't have happened if the city had not lost the 2012 and 2015 NPE shows to Orlando, Fla. By itself, that might not have been enough to get the politicians to act. But after the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. voted to leave Chicago, other trade show organizers also took action -- some of them leaving McCormick, others threatening to leave. The law -- the final version of Senate Bill 28 -- has this to say about SPI's role in the reform:
In 2009, managers of the International Plastics Showcase announced that 2009 was the last year they would host their exhibition at McCormick Place, as they had since 1971, because union labor work rules and electric and food service costs make it uneconomical for the show managers and exhibitors to use McCormick Place as a convention venue as compared to convention facilities in Orlando, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada. The exhibition used over 740,000 square feet of exhibit space, attracted over 43,000 attendees, generated $4.8 million of revenues to McCormick Place, and raised over $200,000 in taxes to pay debt service on convention facility bonds. After the International Plastics Showcase exhibition announced its departure, other conventions and exhibitions managers and exhibitors also stated that they would not return to McCormick Place and Navy Pier for the same reasons cited by the International Plastics Showcase exhibition. In addition, still other managers and exhibitors stated that they would not select McCormick Place as a convention venue unless the union labor work rules and electrical and food service costs were made competitive with those in Orlando and Las Vegas.I still find this all a little hard to believe. Did an exhibitor's complaint about the price of Pepsi really shake the foundation of the US trade show industry? It's certainly more complicated than that, but you can draw the connections. Next up, we'll see if exhibitors and attendees at NPE2012 really save as much money as they've been promised -- and how the show in Orlando compares with what everyone is used to in Chicago. NPE2012 is less than two years away -- remember, it will be in April instead of June next time. So we'll learn the answers to those questions before you know it.