McCormick Place loses biggest show of the year

The International Manufacturing Technology Show scraps its September event, citing the pandemic.

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A scene from the International Manufacturing Technology Show in 2018 at McCormick Place.


Bowing to the inevitable impact of COVID-19, sponsors of the International Manufacturing Technology Show canceled the event Monday. It was supposed to be the largest convention on McCormick Place’s calendar for 2020.

Scheduled for Sept. 14-19, the biennial affair was to have drawn more than 129,000 people to Chicago. It also served as an unofficial kickoff to what ordinarily is a busy fall convention season in Chicago; its cancellation could cause other organizations to drop or postpone their physical events set for later this year.

Under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s plan for reopening the economy amid the pandemic, conventions could not happen until the state reaches Phase 5 of the recovery plan. It’s currently in Phase 3, and Phase 5 can’t occur until there’s a vaccine or effective treatment of COVID-19 and “the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period,” according to published guidelines.

In a statement to members, the Association for Manufacturing Technology, sponsors of the show, said none of those conditions is expected soon.

“While this saddens us, the health and safety of our exhibitors and audience remains our top priority,” said Peter Eelman, the group’s vice president and head of exhibitions.

Cynthia McCafferty, spokeswoman for the agency that runs McCormick Place, said the manufacturing technology show was projected to account for more than 99,000 room nights at Chicago hotels.

Known colloquially as the “tool show,” it dates from 1927 and has evolved into a showcase of digital applications in manufacturing.

Many other conventions have taken their programs online. Eelman said that wouldn’t work for his show, but he said the organization would expand digital programs to allow attendees to network and share technical knowledge.

Another fixture of the fall calendar, the radiologists convention in late November and early December, already has been canceled. Convention industry analysts are awaiting a decision by the sponsor of the PACK Expo for the packaging industry, an event scheduled for Nov. 8-11 that was projected to attract 71,000 attendees.

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