My growing-up hometown came to my grownup hometown yesterday, when the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau hosted a luncheon in Washington, D.C., to introduce SMG, the new management company for Philly’s Pennsylvania Convention Center. Planners from D.C.’s meetings community sat at long tables in Le Diplomate, a terrific new French bistro from Stephen Starr (a restaurateur who not coincidentally is based in Philadelphia), and applauded politely as CVB President and CEO Jack Ferguson set the stage for Bob McClintock, SMG’s COO for convention centers.
And then McClintock did something interesting: He talked bluntly. He oversaw the transitions of both Detroit’s Cobo Center and Chicago’s McCormick Place to SMG management, and knows something about negotiating difficult labor situations — which, he said during his presentation yesterday, is the PA Convention Center’s “800-pound gorilla in the room.” There’s much that unions and management have, can, and will accomplish by working together, McClintock said, but when it comes to convention center operations, “We’ve got to stop thinking of ourselves as rights holders and start thinking of ourselves as service providers.” Because in the end, everybody at a convention center is working toward the same goal. “We do this,” he told the meeting professionals in the room, “because of the exciting business you bring to our community.”