Printing Impressions

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Mark T. Micheslon

Mark My Words

By Mark T. Micheslon

About Mark

Mark Michelson has served as editor-in-chief of Printing Impressions since 1985. He received the Tom McMillan Award for editorial excellence in 2004 and was inducted into the NAPL's Soderstrom Society in 2005, among other honors.

 

Trade Show Managers Blast McCormick Place

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Organizers of five shows typically held at McCormick Place in Chicago—including a representative from the Graphic Arts Show Co. (GASC), which manages Graph Expo and PRINT—appeared before an Illinois legislative committee hearing this month to voice their frustration in holding events there, including the union labor costs/work rules and the sky-high markups they pay for electrical and food service. In response, some lawmakers are calling for the Illinois General Assembly to divert some of its hotel tax revenues to help subsidize the operations at the convention facility.

"Orlando and Las Vegas both provide subsidies for their operations," said Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, who chaired the hearing on how to make McCormick Place more competitive with other venues. Cullerton pointed out, for example, that McCormick Place has been overcharging for electrical and food service as a way to make ends meet, according to a Chicago Tribune article.

“We've gone from complaints about labor costs to anger and demand for change,” the Tribune reported Chris Price, vice president of GASC, as testifying. Vince Lapinski, CEO of manroland North America, also spoke on behalf of the GASC to present the perspective of a trade show exhibitor.

Tim Roby, head of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, added that failure by the General Assembly to address the problem before July 1 will see five, to as many as 20, more trade shows follow the lead of plastics and healthcare industry events that opted to relocate away from Chicago last year.

A similar Sun-Times column about the hearings said some labor leaders place the blame on the biggest show contractors, Freeman Co. and Global Experience Specialists. “Speakers at the hearing said the markups are usually 30 percent, but some from labor said the increases can be more than 40 percent,” wrote Sun-Times columnist David Roeder. Price and Ralph Nappi, GASC president, noted to me in a later phone call that the unions have always been quick to point the blame elsewhere. And, the biggest issue isn't union wages and labor rates, it's outdated union work rules that make it so expensive and frustrating for exhibitors, they contend.

As a printer, with your own business survival at stake in these tough times, perhaps you don't care how much it costs exhibitors to participate in our industry's most important annual event. But you should—and much more so than that outrageous price you might have paid for a lousy hot dog and a soda while taking a break from walking the show floor.

Higher trade show expenditures directly impact industry suppliers' bottom lines, which ultimately get passed along to consumers (you) in several ways: higher capital equipment and software prices and less money available for sales and service support staffing, let alone funding for R&D initiatives.

To boost PRINT 09, the GASC created a financial relief package totaling more than $3 million in credits for exhibitors. This covered heavy equipment material handling costs after the machinery arrived at the McCormick Place dock, and provided similar savings for those exhibitors that did not display equipment. A noble effort during unprecedented economic times, but perhaps still not enough for an exhibitor the size of Heidelberg USA when tallying the total cost of bringing heavy iron and support staff to man a large booth during a show. Let alone the costs for booth construction and design, and the T&E expenses for airplane tickets, hotel rooms and customer dinners.

Some may recall the heady days when the GASC held Graph Expo East in New York, then Philadelphia, as well as a West Coast edition in Los Angeles. Exhibitor demand resulted in the status quo of a single, annual event in a geographically central location. Unlike some other shows that could easily move from McCormick Place to another venue, Chicago really is the most logical city to host our primary printing industry show, especially given the large number of printing establishments based in the surrounding area. Move to another region to potentially lower costs for exhibitors, but then face the reality of reduced show floor traffic with less Midwestern printers coming to the show.

So, unlike some other conventions with no real benefit to staying in Chicago, the GASC has to take a less threatening stance. And, don't expect union work rule and other changes at McCormick Place to come easily. It's not the first time the GASC and other show organizers have sought improvements. Even in the current economy, with cities battling for trade shows and the money that visitors spend in restaurants and the like while there, the unions in Illinois carry a lot of clout with state lawmakers. With the Illini state's long-time reputation for fostering a dysfunctional, often corrupt, political process, changes in how McCormick Place is operated, certainly radical ones, remain far from any kind of slam dunk.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please use the Comments function to get the dialog going.
 
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COMMENTS

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Most Recent Comments:
Bill Farquharson - Posted on May 27, 2010
As an attendee, I find the worst thing about McCormick Place is the sensory overload caused by the lights and the noise. They need more bars or less distractions.
Mark Michelson - Posted on May 10, 2010
It appears that the threats by several trade show organizers to relocate their events if McCormick Place doesn't make changes is resulting in progress. Check out the recent Chicago Sun-Times newspaper article: http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/2241420,CST-NWS-mcpier06.article
Noel Ward - Posted on May 07, 2010
It's about time! McCormick, much like the Javits Center in NYC, has long had a totally rapacious approach to pricing, service and everything else related to show support and operations. I don't know whether its unions, facility management or both, but it hurts business and actually encourages companies NOT to sign up for space at a show. Cheers to the companies like GASC who are standing against these usurious practices. The facility operators and unions have to know there are other cities... and that shows are very portable and can go away.
Joe Wetzel - Posted on April 29, 2010
How do other costs compare with Graph Expo or Graphics of the Americas? Isn't the cost per sq ft higher at On Demand? I've never done Graphics of Americas, but I would assume other costs are cheaper, especially with their move to Orlando. Is it GASC or McCormick that is the cause of the high costs?
David Spiel - Posted on April 28, 2010
How about the fact that Internet service at the show costs over $1,000? This makes it too costly for all but the biggest of companies. I told show management about this and they said that they were working on setting up wireless at McCormick Place. How hard are they working at it? Internet service at On Demand was free. If they don't stop gouging their customers they will have more Komori's and Heidelberg's to worry about.
Hank Brandtjen - Posted on April 20, 2010
An interesting situation is being addressed here; the answer to which will be decided by the ROI exhibitors experience by participating in trade shows. A trade show every year? Exhibitors would participate in one every month if there was a positive return on the investment (ROI). I believe there is an element of greed on all fronts; that no one is without blame as to the high costs of exhibiting. That being said, the powers that be (GASC, the unions, the show providers) can continue to charge what they want to. In the end, exhibitors will be forced to just not participate, or, not participate to the level of past years. The, the result will be a downward cycle and the demise of the shows as we experience them today.
Chris Kauffman - Posted on April 19, 2010
Why in the world do we have to have this show every year? Other industries have made similar changes, like the NPE, which is every three (3) years. When will Graph Expo get with the times and make some seriously needed changes for an industry in crisis? There are not that many new things in the industry each year to make this show worthwhile. Please, someone get in touch with reality and make some much needed to changes, and soon!
Click here to view archived comments...
Archived Comments:
Bill Farquharson - Posted on May 27, 2010
As an attendee, I find the worst thing about McCormick Place is the sensory overload caused by the lights and the noise. They need more bars or less distractions.
Mark Michelson - Posted on May 10, 2010
It appears that the threats by several trade show organizers to relocate their events if McCormick Place doesn't make changes is resulting in progress. Check out the recent Chicago Sun-Times newspaper article: http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/2241420,CST-NWS-mcpier06.article
Noel Ward - Posted on May 07, 2010
It's about time! McCormick, much like the Javits Center in NYC, has long had a totally rapacious approach to pricing, service and everything else related to show support and operations. I don't know whether its unions, facility management or both, but it hurts business and actually encourages companies NOT to sign up for space at a show. Cheers to the companies like GASC who are standing against these usurious practices. The facility operators and unions have to know there are other cities... and that shows are very portable and can go away.
Joe Wetzel - Posted on April 29, 2010
How do other costs compare with Graph Expo or Graphics of the Americas? Isn't the cost per sq ft higher at On Demand? I've never done Graphics of Americas, but I would assume other costs are cheaper, especially with their move to Orlando. Is it GASC or McCormick that is the cause of the high costs?
David Spiel - Posted on April 28, 2010
How about the fact that Internet service at the show costs over $1,000? This makes it too costly for all but the biggest of companies. I told show management about this and they said that they were working on setting up wireless at McCormick Place. How hard are they working at it? Internet service at On Demand was free. If they don't stop gouging their customers they will have more Komori's and Heidelberg's to worry about.
Hank Brandtjen - Posted on April 20, 2010
An interesting situation is being addressed here; the answer to which will be decided by the ROI exhibitors experience by participating in trade shows. A trade show every year? Exhibitors would participate in one every month if there was a positive return on the investment (ROI). I believe there is an element of greed on all fronts; that no one is without blame as to the high costs of exhibiting. That being said, the powers that be (GASC, the unions, the show providers) can continue to charge what they want to. In the end, exhibitors will be forced to just not participate, or, not participate to the level of past years. The, the result will be a downward cycle and the demise of the shows as we experience them today.
Chris Kauffman - Posted on April 19, 2010
Why in the world do we have to have this show every year? Other industries have made similar changes, like the NPE, which is every three (3) years. When will Graph Expo get with the times and make some seriously needed changes for an industry in crisis? There are not that many new things in the industry each year to make this show worthwhile. Please, someone get in touch with reality and make some much needed to changes, and soon!