New boss at Pa. Convention Center

By Joseph N. DiStefano

SMG, the West Conshohocken facilities manager that will take over management of Philadelphia's cavernous but underused, state-built Pennsylvania Convention Center on Dec. 1, has tapped Lorenz Hassenstein, a former vice president at  Advertising Specialties Institute Inc. in Trevose, to run center operations.

Lorenz Hassenstein (YouTube)

Hassenstein, who ran Vornado Realty Trusts's Piers 92/94 in New York from 2008-11 before joining Advertising Specialties, will head the team that runs the center and deals with shows, contractors, hotels and labor unions. He will report to SMG chief operating officer Bob McClintock, and to the state-owned center's new executive director, who the center's board is expected to name next week from a group of applicants including several well-known in the city's hotel and tourism industry. A sports car enthusiast, Hassenstein will be moving from Connecticut to the Philadelphia area to take the job, McClintock told me.

Hassenstein will supervise most of the center's staff of 100 positions, about 25 of which are currently vacant. Some current Center employees will transfer to SMG; others, like executive director Ameenah Young, are being replaced. SMG will likely re-align some positions so more of the staff deals directly with customers, McClintock told me after Hassenstein's appointment was ratified by the board in a unanimous vote. SMG will keep total payroll within the center's current budget, he added. Under Young the facility has lately posted lower-than-projected costs.

The board is bringing in SMG to try to carve a larger slice from the slow-growing national conventions market, and to convince members of the Carpenters' union and other union labor to adopt more flexible work hours that could result in fewer union hours on some jobs, in exchange for an overall rise in shows that would mean more total union employment. McClintock says SMG succeeded on both counts when it took over management of government-built convention centers in Chicago and Detroit.

While most of the work done by the center's current staff is being outsourced to SMG and report to Hassenstein, the new executive director will still boss a group of 12 senior Convention Center administrators and assistants, including the directors of finance, human resources and legal affairs.

 The board, headed by attorney Greg Fox, also approved a payroll budget for those staffers that would reduce the new executive director's cash pay to $220,000, from Young's current $267,500; benefits will also be less (corrected).