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Car Wash Show leaving Las Vegas for Chicago

Updated: March 28, 2012 5:57PM



The Car Wash Show will abandon Las Vegas for Chicago in 2014, thanks to labor reforms that cut costs for McCormick Place exhibitors.

A news release distributed Wednesday by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office described the Car Wash Show as the “world’s largest car wash convention and trade show” with 6,000 attendees from more than 30 countries.

The event features 125,000 square feet of exhibits and 20 hours of business seminars. It is scheduled for March 31-April 2, 2014.

Chicago’s gain — and Las Vegas’ loss — would not have been possible without the reforms negotiated with organized labor.

The labor deal was required after a federal judge last year struck down cost reductions mandated by the Illinois General Assembly. The judge said lawmakers interfered with collective bargaining.

After the decision, the car wash show managers canceled a deal with McCormick Place and moved to Las Vegas, where the 2013 show will go on as planned.

In an interview Wednesday, Eric Wulf, chief executive of the International Carwash Association, called Chicago a “world-class city and a world class convention venue” that was simply out of reach for Car Wash Show exhibitors until the labor reforms.

“Our exhibitors under the old format would not have been able to set up their own booths. That was the rule. The new environment allows exhibitors to use hand tools and set up their own booths,” he said.

“We have somewhat specialized equipment that makes that an important part of our show. Given the changes, McCormick Place has become a very competitive place to locate [in],” Wulf said.

Before making the switch to Chicago, Wulf said he was shown an audit of exhibitor costs at the Housewares show that revealed “reductions across the board” and “gave us comfort this was a good choice.”

The annual show typically is booked in a city for one- or two-year commitments, Wulf said. Chicago could become a regular stop depending on the experience of exhibitors and attendees, he said.

Emanuel and Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez played key roles in convincing McCormick Place unions, especially the Teamsters and carpenters, to lower their costs to give exhibitors a break.

The union settlement was reached last October and essentially ratified the changes the Legislature ordered. But in return, the unions got commitments that savings would be passed on to exhibitors and not used to pad profits for show managers.

The deal convinced a number of trade shows and conventions to either extend their stays at McCormick Place or reaffirm agreements to come to Chicago—for a total economic impact that City Hall has pegged at $2.7 billion.

Hotels have also announced $500 million in upgrades since the deal was cut.

“I am pleased that the Car Wash Show is coming to Chicago and its more than 6,000 attendees will have a chance to experience all the great things our city has to offer,” the mayor said in the release.

“Attracting shows like this is a central focus of our comprehensive business and tourism strategy. They create jobs for our residents and foster economic opportunity throughout the city. We will continue to seek more exciting shows that will bring thousands of visitors to Chicago.”

Don Welsh, president and CEO of the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau, said the Car Wash Show “represents the ideal-sized group to complement Chicago’s mid-sized and citywide business. … We look forward to welcoming all attendees to what is now the most customer-friendly convention and trade show destination in the country as a result of labor reform.”



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