Pa Convention Center picks SMG - Update: Shapiro's 'Aye'

Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro. (File Photo: Laurence Kesterson / Staff Photographer)

Philadelphia Convention Center board voted 12-3 to replace chief Ameenah Young's administration with a private management company, then voted 13-2 to hire SMG of West Conshohocken over Comcast-Spectacor's Global Specturm to be that manager.  Read Suzette Parmley's report at here.

Montgomery County Commissioners chairman Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, joined Republicans and Gov. Corbett appointees in out-voting a small group of city representatives on the board, led by Heather Steinmiller, who say privatization won't fix the center's problems, including expensive labor.

Shapiro had history with both sides: his law firm, Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young LLP, has represented SMG, while he counts Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen as a personal mentor. Shapiro points out his firm also worked for Comcast, he reviewed his status with the Convention Center's chairman and counsel before the process, and he's just "of counsel" at Stradley, not an owner with a stake in the firm's overall business.

He says the majority's goal is to bring in more business and tourism for Philly hotels: "I've been on the board for a year. I've been working hard to change it. We can do better and bring in more shows. Moving to private management is a giant step forward in addressing some of the roadblocks to progress."\

UPDATE: From Shapiro's statement in support of privatization:

Prior to my service as the Chairman of the Montgomery County Commission, I served for seven years in the state House of Representatives... I cast many important votes, including one in favor of investing $800 million to expand the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

When I became Commissioner, I asked my colleagues in Montgomery County to appoint me as our designee on the Convention Center Board because I saw the great potential in this building to be a force for important economic and civic progress across our region...

We find ourselves here today considering a vote on whether to have a private management firm run the center not because of a specific failure by any individual employee but rather to put ourselves in the best position to capture a larger share of the tourism and hospitality market.

It is no secret that we need to do better than what is projected for the next several years and bring more people and more shows to this Center.

Today is a major step forward to accomplish that goal. To be clear, it is not a final step, but a critical first step. I am mindful of the fact that as we negotiate the terms of the contract we must pay particular attention to important issues like our workforce and meeting the diversity standards we set for ourselves.

This vote is important to the Center, the City, the neighboring counties and the Commonwealth and I intend to vote 'aye'.