Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

How will Convention Center weigh would-be managers?

In recent battles, SMG has beat its Comcast-owned rival on points

How will Convention Center weigh would-be managers?

Firms have until Friday to bid to run the Convention Center. (Matt Rourke / Associated Press)
Firms have until Friday to bid to run the Convention Center. (Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

West Conshohocken-based SMG, Comcast Spectacor's Global Spectrum, and any other firms seeking to run the Pennsylvania Convention Center have until Friday to submit their bids to run the state- and hotel-subsidized complex, which is trying to attract future shows despite a general decline in U.S. convention business and a lack of evidence that private management will help.

How will the center's board choose? Its Request for Proposals lists a string of criteria. The board and its lawyers at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney and financial advisers at Public Financial Management will compare the experience and qualifications of the firms' bosses and site managers, marketing capabilities, operations, fees and cost-cutting plans, and past track records.

Other cities where SMG and Global Spectrum compete have weighed similar criteria. How's that gone?

In 2011, Chicago picked SMG over Global Spectrum after SMG pulled higher scores in eight out of nine categories, including its management plan, management team, experience, transition plan, marketing, and targets for women and minorities. Global Spectrum won top points in one category: financial stability and capability.

 Last year, Knight Center in Miami picked SMG over Global Spectrum after SMG outpointed its rival in five of six major categories. The two tied for the category of "reputation." (Global Spectrum took the Miami Beach convention center away from SMG in 2008).

One factor that might favor Global Spectrum, given the Philly center's past workforce complications, would be the contracts with the major labor union locals that cover the Convention Center. Those unions do work at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philly, managed by Global. But standing current contracts with those sale labor locals isn't one of the factors the Convention Center board listed in seeking bidders.

My colleague Suzette Parmley plans to tell more about SMG and Global Spectrum in Friday's Inquirer.

(From my column in today's Philadelphia Inquirer.)

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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