Private Company Set To Take Over Day-To-Day Operations Of PA Convention Center
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By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new era begins this week for the troubled Pennsylvania Convention Center. Day-to-day operations will now be run by a private company — which faces the daunting task of overcoming long-running labor issues that may have driven customers away.
With the booking of major conventions on the decline, the Convention Center board has hired the firm SMG, based in Conshohocken, to take over operations, replacing paid staff. The company already runs more than 70 other centers around the country, and Senior Vice President Bob McClintock says that experience will help here in Philly.
“The meeting planners that are looking at Philadelphia already work with our company,” he says. “They work with them in Chicago, in San Francisco, in Detroit. And so because of that understand how we run our business and what they can expect here in Philadelphia.”
But SMG faces huge hurdles, mainly in the perception among meeting planners that the Pennsylvania Convention Center is too costly, and that dealing with the six unions which set up the trade shows is a hassle. McClintock believes the planners will have confidence in SMG.
“They understand that they’re dealing with management that knows how the industry can run,” McClintock says. “And it’s not about running it non-union. It’s about running it effectively and efficiently in a multi-trade environment.”
McClintock vows that his staff will be an active presence on the floor of all trade shows, to ensure efficiencies and resolve disputes between the unions and organizers, and among the six unions.
“You can’t manage labor from your office. You have to manage labor from being on the floor, he says. “And SMG is going to have a team of professionals there involved with labor, but more importantly involved with the organizer and the exhibitor in ensuring that they’re getting the best possible product on the trade show floor. The efficiencies that we can put in place through being better managers of the process, the efficiencies that we can bring about by ensuring that the (union) jurisdictional lines are clean and smooth: that’s where the cost savings will come from.”
SMG’s takeover comes ahead of a steep decline in major convention bookings beginning next year and continuing through at least 2016. McClintock believes the SMG takeover will eventually change the sour perception of the center that prompted the decline.
“We have to be an easy place to do business at every aspect of our operation,” he says, “whether its on the financial side, or on the sales side or on the meeting planner side, and, without question, on labor.”