20071106 chicago skyline 18
The John Hancock building dominates the Chicago skyline with Lake Michigan in the background as seen from the Sears Tower observation deck. - 


Steve Chiotakis: Chicago hosts about 100 major trade shows, conventions and meetings each year. All that brings in hundreds of millions of dollars. But within the past week, a couple of trade groups have announced they're leaving town. And today there's talk that the National Restaurant Association might look elsewhere as well. Chicago Public Radio's Susie An brings us this report.

Susie An: Since the 1970's, the Plastics Industry Trade Association has held its trade show in Chicago. But Plastics' Barry Isenberg says Chicago's labor costs are too high.

Barry Isenberg: It takes about a week to set up the show and a week after the exhibition is over to break down and ship things out. And so all that labor cost, all the shipping cost we found to be very expensive.

Isenberg says the plastics show is moving to Orlando, where it expects to save about $20 million. Last week, a trade show on health care said it's leaving for Las Vegas.

Derrek Hull of the National Restaurant Association wouldn't comment on rumors that his group would follow suit, but he says Chicago's labor costs have always been a challenge.

Derrek Hull: Well, many of our exhibitors continue to voice their concerns. Those exhibiting companies do conventions elsewhere in the country, including the cities of Orlando and Vegas.

Chicago's convention leaders say they're trying to make Chicago more competitive. They say other cities have the backing of state and local governments, while Chicago operates completely from trade show revenue.

From Chicago, I'm Susie An for Marketplace.