Lori Healey, a former chief of staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley, was hired Thursday as the new CEO of McPier, the organization that runs McCormick Place.
Lori Healey is the new CEO of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority. | File Photo
The nine-member Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority unanimously approved her hiring during a regular board meeting. She starts her new post Monday.
Healey, 55, replaces Jim Reilly, 70, who served two separate terms as CEO and had agreed to stay on until his successor was named after he announced his retirement in late 2013. Reilly will stay on as a consultant, getting paid $17,000 a month, until the end of the year.
Healey will receive a $300,000 annual salary plus a target incentive bonus of 30 percent.
Healey, who headed Chicago’s unsuccessful effort to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, is CEO at Tur Partners LLC, a Chicago investment and urban economic development firm run by the Daley family.
Healey said in an interview Wednesday that she is moving into a condo in the South Loop within walking distance of McCormick Place and believes “there is a huge opportunity for growth” in the neighborhood. She cited a new microbrewery and plans for a museum in the Motor Row neighborhood west and south of the convention center as positive steps toward boosting growth of retail and destinations there.
She said she aims to fulfill Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goal of boosting tourism by marketing what will be a wider range of meeting spaces after the construction of a new $390 million Marriott Marquis hotel and the $164 million DePaul University arena, which can host small- and medium-sized business meetings.
“We will have a whole range of options to cater to shows of all sizes,” Healey said.
Much of the industry’s growth is coming from smaller and medium-sized shows because of the boom in meetings hosted by corporations, technology startups and fast-developing health care companies, she said.
Reilly said Healey was uniquely qualified for the job because of her understanding of Chicago and her sales and development experience.
“The big challenges for the next few years are the building project [the DePaul University basketball arena and a Marriott Marquis hotel], and sales and marketing of McCormick Place,” Reilly said after the McPier board meeting.
“Knowing Chicago wasn’t an absolute necessity, but it was a plus,” he said.
Jack Greenberg, former McDonald’s chairman and CEO and chairman of the McPier board, said Healey knows McCormick Place and its employees from her experience with the Olympics bid and as head of the 2012 NATO Summit host committee.
He said the McPier board seriously considered outside candidates and interviewed “three or four,” but noted that most convention-industry candidates had no experience in development and had worked in much smaller cities, such as Orlando and Las Vegas.
Reilly said a groundbreaking for the new hotel is expected in mid-June, while construction of the DePaul arena is expected to start in the fall, perhaps in October. The projects are slated to be completed in 2017.
Asked whether a casino will be built in the neighborhood, Reilly said he is in favor of a casino but not across the street from McCormick Place.
He and Greenberg said show managers and exhibitors oppose anything – including a casino — that would take show attendees away from the convention exhibit halls, where the exhibitors count on making money.
Reilly said he hopes the arena, hotel and other developments — including redevelopment of the historic Motor Row at 2200 to 2500 South Michigan Avenue — will bring much-needed everyday retail to the neighborhood, including Walgreens, CVS and Starbucks.