After Hours

A CIO's-eye view of Chicago's Municipal Pier Expo Authority

McCormick Place skyline

Ellen Barry is the CIO of Municipal Pier Expo Authority, one of the largest convention centers in the country. Her IT group is responsible for providing technical support for the business as well as running a revenue-generating IT shop that delivers services to show organizers, exhibitors, and attendees.

Note: For more details of Barry's IT operations, see this interview.

In 1989, McCormick Place was restructured as the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, joining the city-owned Navy Pier. MPEA is officially government sector. But CIO Ellen Barry says it operates as a cross between the public and private sectors. "Our legal entity is public sector, but the way we deal with clients is much more like a private sector organization, meaning that we know that our customers have choices. If we don't take care of our customers, they may go somewhere else."

However, unlike a typical business, the goal is not making money. "Our objective is to bring economic activity to Chicago and Illinois. We're responsible for bringing in about five billion dollars a year in revenue for the airlines, hotels, cabs, restaurants, shopping, and so on, from conventions, meetings, and tourism. That's our goal -- to be an economic engine that drives the Chicagoland region as well as the state of Illinois."

By Jody Gilbert

Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic.