The Metropolitan Pier and Exhibition Authority has tapped SMG, the world’s largest manager of public assembly facilities and convention centers, operating 220 worldwide, to run Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center. SMG, in turn, hired McCormick Place’s current general manager, David Causton, to continue to run the mammoth meeting facility.
The decision to outsource management of McCormick Place was made when the Illinois state legislature passed sweeping reforms on May 27, 2010. The reforms also included labor rule changes designed to make the center more customer-friendly. However, those changes were overturned in April by the U.S. District Court. MPEA, which owns the facility, has asked for a stay.
Following a competitive bid process that began last fall, SMG was chosen for its focus on cost reductions and customer-experience enhancements. “The customer wins in two respects,” said Causton. One, SMG will leverage its resources, relationships, and processes that have already been proven in other markets to create more efficiencies, he said. “When they look across the range of convention centers they operate, they find best practices that can be applied to other facilities in their network,” he said. “It could be the ability to do procurement in a quicker, more efficient way,” he added. Two, the employees that customers have worked with over the years will stay in place, because SMG will likely hire back most of the employees that currently work under Causton. They will have to go through the interview process, but Causton expects that most of them will be retained. He said it’s important to have continuity moving forward. SMG shared the news with customers and the reaction has been “very positive,” said Causton.
SMG will officially take over operation on July 1.
The labor reforms will remain in place until further notice. The district court judge said he will not issue a permanent injunction until he has ruled on the stay request by MPEA, which asked for the stay so that it could appeal the decision. The judge is reviewing the request and gathering materials to make a determination. If the district court judge does not rule favorably, MPEA plans to appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court.