"Today is a very special day, a wonderful day in the history of Chicago's visitor industry," said Bruce Rauner, Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau.
It's special because a key medical technology trade show whose complaints about high operating costs at McCormick Place sparked rule and labor changes has decided to come back to the city.
"Eight to 10 billion dollars a year in our economy comes from this convention business," said David Mosena, chairman of the interim MPEA board.
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society plans to return its annual meetings to Chicago in 2015 and 2019.
The head of the group says state-mandated reforms that cut electrical and food service costs at the convention center mean at least a 25-percent costs saving overall.
"Some significant rules have been made several years ago which allowed small exhibitors to bring things that they could carry," said Stephen Lieber, HIMMS CEO and president. "That's been expanded to allow other to bring equipment onto the floor by themselves without having to use McCormick staff."
The HIMMS show attracts roughly 30,000 attendees from around the world and could possibly generate more than $33 million in spending during its convention.
This is the first show to recommit to Chicago after previously leaving in 2009.
"Because we have a global recession, things have to change," said Mayor Richard M. Daley. "Our competition is coming from other cities, coming from around the world."
Citing high costs, the HIMMS organizers then opted to move their annual meeting to Las Vegas for 2012. Soon after, the triennial plastics industry trade show, which had held its conventions in Chicago since 1971, pulled out as well, prompting the new state law, known as McPier Reform. It began last summer and forced a revamping of convention center operations.
McPier trustee Jim Reilly says the city is in talks to get the plastics show to return.
"Hopefully that will result in them coming back, but we aren't there yet," said Reilly.
Tourism officials say, with new rules in place, over the last few months, more than a dozen shows have signed with Chicago, despite a federal lawsuit filed by the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters which looks to stop the work rule changes at McCormick Place.