Juan Ochoa, Chief executive, Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the state/city agency that owns and operates McCormick Place and Navy Pier

Why we are watching: Major trade shows are leaving town, screaming that costs are too high, particularly in these recessionary times. <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PEPLT007475" title="Richard M. Daley" href="/topic/politics/government/richard-m.-daley-PEPLT007475.topic">Mayor Richard Daley</a> wants <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PLCUL000061" title="McCormick Place" href="/topic/jobs-workplace/mccormick-place-PLCUL000061.topic">McCormick Place</a> to cut exhibitor costs, and he wants it to happen quickly. Business leaders are suggesting the whole operation should be privatized.<br>
<br>
All of which leaves Ochoa on one of the hottest seats in town. Not only does he need to calm exhibitor outrage over costs, including those associated with the in-house electrical service, restrictive labor union work rules and the center's exclusive food-service provider, but he needs to find ways to trim an operating deficit and persuade <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PLGEO100100500000000" title="Illinois" href="/topic/us/illinois-PLGEO100100500000000.topic">Illinois</a> legislators to let the agency restructure its crushing debt schedule.<br>
<br>
Appointed in 2007 by then- <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PEPLT007479" title="Rod Blagojevich" href="/topic/politics/government/rod-blagojevich-PEPLT007479.topic">Gov. Rod Blagojevich</a>, Ochoa makes $195,000 a year, the same salary that has been in place for more than a decade. But in recognition of the agency's dire straits, he has chosen not to take additional deferred compensation, which typically adds about $35,000 a year to the CEO's compensation package.<br>
<br>
"If we are going to ask people to take sacrifices, it clearly has to start with me," he said.<br>
<br>
With the spotlight on the city's trade show business, "we have a unique opportunity to change the business model," he said. "I think the mayor and governor will step up to the plate ... and help us change the course of the ship."<br>
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A legislative agenda is expected to be announced Monday.<br>
<br>
-- Kathy Bergen
chi-juan-ochoa

( January 10, 2010 )

Why we are watching: Major trade shows are leaving town, screaming that costs are too high, particularly in these recessionary times. Mayor Richard Daley wants McCormick Place to cut exhibitor costs, and he wants it to happen quickly. Business leaders are suggesting the whole operation should be privatized.

All of which leaves Ochoa on one of the hottest seats in town. Not only does he need to calm exhibitor outrage over costs, including those associated with the in-house electrical service, restrictive labor union work rules and the center's exclusive food-service provider, but he needs to find ways to trim an operating deficit and persuade Illinois legislators to let the agency restructure its crushing debt schedule.

Appointed in 2007 by then- Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Ochoa makes $195,000 a year, the same salary that has been in place for more than a decade. But in recognition of the agency's dire straits, he has chosen not to take additional deferred compensation, which typically adds about $35,000 a year to the CEO's compensation package.

"If we are going to ask people to take sacrifices, it clearly has to start with me," he said.

With the spotlight on the city's trade show business, "we have a unique opportunity to change the business model," he said. "I think the mayor and governor will step up to the plate ... and help us change the course of the ship."

A legislative agenda is expected to be announced Monday.

-- Kathy Bergen

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