PhillyDeals: Convention Center top job remains an open question

John McNichol has been serving as interim, unpaid chief executive of the Convention Center.
John McNichol has been serving as interim, unpaid chief executive of the Convention Center.
Posted: January 18, 2014

Will Harrisburg corporate lobbyist and Delaware County Republican scion John McNichol move from his current unpaid, interim chief executive status at the Convention Center into a $220,000-plus-benefits position as permanent CEO?

McNichol told fellow directors at Thursday's monthly meeting he had an official Convention Center e-mail and had been meeting with the facility's operating managers.

They include bosses at SMG, the West Conshohocken facilities manager hired in 2013 to replace ousted city-backed CEO Ahmeenah Young.

"You don't know what you don't know until you've had a lot of sitdowns," McNichol told fellow directors. "I'm here every day and night until such time as you kick me out of the building," he added, smiling.

Is the board looking for professional facilities managers or other candidates in addition to McNichol?

"It's a process I'm working on over the next 30 days," board chairman Greg Fox told me.

Is that how long it will take to find a search firm? No, just to decide on whether to hire one. Fox said he was not certain there would be a search firm.

"There needs to be a search," said Ryan Boyer, the board member representing the local laborers' union.

Boyer said Mayor Nutter and some of Boyer's fellow directors would welcome a national search, to include candidates who are women, African Americans, and other groups. Boyer said the long-term hire is far from a done deal.

In Philadelphia, of course, there is precedent for people whose best-known qualifications are in the public sector moving into the CEO suite.

As the last boss of Tasty Baking Co., former Philadelphia commerce director and chamber of commerce chief Charlie Pizzi wasn't able to keep the stock price up or the company independent. But he scored enough state financing to build the new Tasty Baking plant at the Navy Yard, which has survived and thrived since the company's sale to Flowers Foods.

Ahmeenah Young's critics sometimes said the city needed a career facilities manager. But the pros at SMG now do that work, leaving the board and its factions to wrestle over the nominal top job and its genuine pay and benefits.

Docs at the mall

Main Line Health, the company that runs the Lankenau, Bryn Mawr, Paoli, and Riddle hospitals in Philadelphia's wealthy western suburbs, has opened its fourth satellite clinic, a 32,000-square-foot site at the Exton Square Mall.

Family doctors, specialists, cancer treatments, and testing machines next to parking, shopping, and fast food? "The future of medicine," Main Line chief executive Jack Lynch said in a statement.

The chain has similarly sized freestanding clinics in Broomall, Collegeville, and next to the SAP Americas headquarters in Newtown Square.

Exton Square owner Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT) has sought new uses for a string of aging Philadelphia-area malls. There is a Mercy Care clinic at PREIT's Willow Grove Mall, fancy restaurant plans at Moorestown Mall, housing at Voorhees Town Center, and a series of plans - none yet realized - for the Gallery at Market East.