The change in the building's 2003 labor agreement comes a year after the $786 million expansion opened.
"We were trying to do anything for a more competitive edge," said the Convention Center's president and chief executive officer, Ahmeenah Young. "People would say, in this economy, we can't afford this extra 8 percent fee."
"We have groups that want to come to Philadelphia to have their event, but they were going somewhere else," Young said. "There are over 300 convention centers in this country. People have choices."
Elliot-Lewis vice president Jim Gentile said, "At the end of the day, it was something absolutely necessary to help reduce the cost of doing business within the building and attract additional conventions in Philadelphia." The company will continue to provide facility maintenance and other facility services at the convention center.
Jack Ferguson, president and CEO of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, called it "a huge win. The customer always saw that as a cost to them that they should not incur. So it's a step in the right direction. I would like to see another hotel built with about 700 rooms to accommodate the size of groups we are getting in here."
Mayor Nutter stopped by the center Wednesday to greet some of the meeting consultants, including Mariana Gallo, from Washington, and Nicole Bressi, of NextGen Healthcare in Horsham.
"We have one of the best convention buildings in America. I'd like to see more conventions," Nutter said. "This is an incredibly growth-oriented industry. It also helps to support our hotels. We need additional hotel rooms. We are in a number of discussions about additional hotels here in Philadelphia. You will be hearing about that soon."
Beginning recently, everyone who works at the Convention Center must have mandatory hospitality training, with a focus on improving Philadelphia's reputation for being customer-friendly.
Last spring, after a meeting of the American Transplant Congress here, "I had labor come to me at the end of my move-out and thank me for bringing my business to Philadelphia," Ballinger said. "It just blew me away because I know all the stories about the labor issues."
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