Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) and the nation’s leading facilities manager, SMG, hosted a special town hall on Sept. 19.
“We hosted this town hall webinar at the convention center because we thought it was important to have an interactive discussion with our customers about the many changes at the Center,” said John McNichol, president and CEO, Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority. “To be competitive, we need to be constantly looking to innovate and adapt to customer concerns, so the direct feedback we received from customers during and after this program is invaluable. The response from meeting planners and customers who took part in the live webinar has been great and we hope more planners will tune in and watch the rebroadcast.”
Addressed during the live meeting were questions from the meetings industry community about expanded work rules, streamlined jurisdictions and customer service in Philadelphia. Officials present during the webinar included Julie Coker Graham, executive vice president, PHLCVB; John McNichol, president and CEO, Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority; Lorenz Hassenstein, general manager, Pennsylvania Convention Center, SMG; and Pam Ballinger, senior director of meetings & exhibits, American Association for Cancer Research.
PCCA Board of Directors introduced a four-point plan:
- Labor Supply Model
- Building Management Model
- Union Work Rules
- Contractor Billing
By appointing SMG as the facility operator, the Labor Supply Program is immediately improved with housekeeping, security and other contractors made accountable for new elevated customer-service standards and a $1.2 million investment in the labor department.
The Pennsylvania Convention Center is reinforcing Philadelphia’s position as the best value in the Northeast. Progressive work rules and streamlined services at the SMG-managed Center are to provide customers with flexibility and independence, resulting in greater cost efficiencies and a better overall customer experience.
Expanded exhibitor rights include:
- Right to work within booths up to 600-square feet
- Right to use power tools and step ladders (up to six feet)
- Right to load/unload personal vehicles
- Right to hang signs and do A/V work (excludes rental equipment)
- Expanded rights associated with the use of computers
- Establishment of a Core Workforce: right to choose foremen; call by name; ability for contractors to direct work; drug and alcohol testing; and hospitality training ($20k/month)
Labor Negotiations from December to May 2014 included six show labor unions. From April 30- May 1, 13 hours of negotiations led to four of six unions that signed the updated agreement by the deadline. The Carpenters and Teamsters attempted to sign after the contract was finalized and were rejected.
The PCCA Board ratified the terms on May 6 with non-signatory work assigned within the signatories for 10-year terms. These signatory stakeholder unions included the electricians, laborers and stage hands, whose jurisdictions have expanded, and the riggers, whose jurisdiction remained unchanged.
Unions that signed pledged a commitment to the facility, “We are 100 percent committed to making these new work rules a success; delivering customers a hospitable experience; and recruiting and retaining customers for the Center. If there is an opportunity for us to win new business, we want to be a part of that effort and win over potential customers with a renewed focus on hospitality and customer service.”
More streamlined and efficient jurisdictions are expected to improve by 25-30 percent with a 17 percent average rate reduction for show labor.
Webinar speaker Pam Ballinger commended the facility on its candidness.
“It was a pleasure to participate in the live town hall hosted by Philadelphia, a first of its kind production by a destination,” said Ballinger. “The event provided a platform for planners, exhibitors and show contractors to have their concerns about doing business in Philadelphia addressed and demonstrates the commitment of the Pennsylvania Convention Center and the Philadelphia CVB to transparent communication about the changes at the facility.”
The meetings and events destination has already received positive feedback following the webinar.
“Philadelphia delivers a first-class, value-added meeting experience,” said Tom Pellet, meetings & conventions director, American Academy of Family Physicians.