America’s largest manufacturing technology show, IMTS 2012, ranked second only to the Consumer Electronics Show among the nation’s top trade shows, according to Trade Show Executive magazine. The fact that IMTS maintains this exalted status is a tribute to the continued strength of manufacturing despite the hard knocks and massive changes the industry has endured.
The trade show dates back to 1927, but the modern era of IMTS really began in 1972, when it opened to international companies and moved to McCormick Place in Chicago. Organizers at that time initiated the familiar two-year cycle which continues today.
In the 40 years since the birth of the modern IMTS, nearly the only constant with the show has been change. The physical size of the show has undergone a complete metamorphosis since that September day that greeted a huge crowd at the new McCormick Place, which had been rebuilt after a fire destroyed it.
In 1972, attendees took city buses and were dropped off at what is now the CAD/CAM pavilion in the East Building (also known as the Lakeside Center Ballroom). They might have stopped for a snack or a cocktail at the spectacular McCormick Inn next door. The McCormick Inn hosted convention visitors for a 25 years before it was razed to make way for the South Building.
As the demand for exhibit space outstripped capacity in the East Building, expansion at McCormick Place began. A former printing plant next door was christened Donnelly Hall and provided one of the most column-filled exhibit halls in the history of trade shows. In 1986, the newly constructed North Building opened, ushering in an era of extraordinary growth in trade shows in Chicago.
Ten years later, after both McCormick Inn and Donnelly Hall were torn down, the massive South Building opened, allowing mega trade shows to fill McCormick Place’s 1 million square feet of exhibit space. At the same time, the new Hyatt Regency McCormick Place replaced the original McCormick Inn as the on-site hotel. Finally, the opening of the West Building in 2007 (IMTS first occupied it the following year) completed the four-compass-point setup of the exhibition halls that exist today.
For IMTS 2014, the most notable physical change in the show setup will be the new tower at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. Opened in late summer 2013, the new tower is connected to the existing hotel building via a shared lobby and offers more than 400 additional guest rooms on site.
Does this complete the McCormick Place rebirth? No, this venue is not done growing — not by a long shot. The next phase, which was announced earlier this year, will include a new multi-purpose sports arena and large convention hall. DePaul University will be the primary tenant of this versatile space. The new development will also include another major hotel and the reconstruction of the area around the complex.
What does this mean for IMTS? The latest expansion plans demonstrate the city of Chicago’s and the state of Illinois’ continued commitment to the growth of the Windy City’s trade show community. The new space will allow IMTS to add two co-located events that will expand the breadth and scope of IMTS. These events include Industrial Automation North America and Motion, Drives and Automation North America.
From Sept. 8 to 13, 2014, we will mark 42 years of the modern IMTS with more than 1.3 million square feet of manufacturing innovation and the most modern facilities available. We look forward to seeing you there!
Peter Eelman is vice president of exhibitions and communications for AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology.
After overseeing AMT’s Exhibitions department since 1996, Peter Eelman was promoted to his current role in January 2009. Peter has been with AMT for 16 years, but has been involved with the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) for more than 30 years, first as an exhibitor with Warner & Swasey Co., later with Toyoda USA, and then as a consultant. IMTS is the largest industrial trade show in North America and takes place in Chicago in even-numbered years.
Peter is on the Board of Directors of the Exhibitor Appointed Contractor Association and formerly served on the Board of Directors for the Trade Show Exhibitors Association. He is also a speaker with the International Association of Exhibitions and Events and serves on the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority Labor Council in Chicago.
In his role as the head of IMTS, Peter is the key liaison with the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, McCormick Place, and the various vendors, service providers and trade unions involved in the trade show process. Peter participated in the recent negotiation that led to historic labor and management reform in Chicago. In addition to IMTS, Peter also is prominently involved in international shows that take place in Asia, Europe, South America and elsewhere.