Would you pay $600 to vacuum the carpet at your trade show booth — just once? That's how much one exhibitor paid at a recent trade show at Chicago's McCormick Place.
Remind anyone of the $345.39 that an exhibitor at NPE famously paid for four cases of Pepsi?
The vacuuming charge is highlighted in a big investigative story in a recent edition of Crain's Chicago Business (one of our sister newspapers). Staff reporter James Ylisela Jr. spent three months scrutinizing the real story behind the high cost of exhibiting at trade shows at McCormick.
The plastics industry played a prominent role in instigating changes in Chicago's convention industry, when the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. decided to move the 2012 and 2015 NPE shows to Orlando, Fla.
Ylisela's story goes into detail on the markups charged by the two general contractors at Chicago's show, Freeman and Global Experience Specialists Inc. He also explored the roles show organizers — primarily trade associations — have played in the McCormick costs debate.
It should come as no surprise that everyone has their hand in the till at McCormick. The simple story that many have accepted all along — that Chicago's trade unions were responsible for high costs there — just isn't the full story.
In the wake of SPI's decision to move NPE, Illinois politicians took a stab at reforming the city's convention business. But as Crain's Chicago pointed out in a follow-up editorial, they didn't go far enough.
Exhibitors need more contractors to choose from and greater transparency regarding relationships between trade groups and contractors, the newspaper wrote. Associations should disclose discounts and other benefits they get from contractors, who in turn should disclose how those expenses are passed along to exhibitors.
More reform is needed to make conventions more affordable. Chicago is a great location for a plastics industry trade show. But until there's real change there, it will be tough to see the industry return to McCormick.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastic Blog.”