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Getting more than training out of Automechanika Chicago

Monday, February 9, 2015 - 09:00
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Automechanika Chicago is making its U.S. debut this April, but aside from the wide variety of courses from top industry trainers, there are other reasons to take some time away from your shop and make it a long weekend in the Windy City.

Specific to the event, city and show organizers have made it easy to get to and from partner hotels to McCormick Place and back.

“Many years ago we opened dedicated bus lines. In addition to the surface streets, buses and cars coming into the building, we also have an incredible bus lane that is an express bus lane that runs basically parallel to the trains coming in from the city through a dedicated tunnel that’s only open when conventions are in town to make the drive from the downtown hotels to the campus within five to seven minutes,” Don Welsh, president and CEO of Choose Chicago, said in a video interview.

The loop will pick up attendees at partner hotels (check out the list at hotels), and there will be transportation from the hotels to Navy Pier for an opening night party on April 24 from 5 to 7 p.m. The event at Navy Pier is open to all attendees and exhibitors, and includes drinks, appetizers and entertainment.

Navy Pier also is one of several attractions Choose Chicago representatives highlighted as places not to miss after show hours or for your families coming along for the weekend. Darrell Baker, Choose Chicago’s vice president sales, trade shows, pointed out lists of attractions, including the free Millennium Park, Lincoln Park Zoo and Cloud Gate (the “Bean” where many people snap pictures), as well as Lurie Garden, the Skydeck Chicago in the Willis Tower, Lookingglass Theatres, Broadway in Chicago, Shedd Aquarium and Chicago White Sox, among many others. (Sorry, Cubs fans, they’re on the road that weekend.)

For those driving into the city, there are various public transportation options, from L Trains, buses and taxis to the high-speed Metra commuter rail train connects outlying suburbs to downtown. has links to places where you can park should your hotel not have parking and lots where you can pay ahead of time.

In addition to entertainment and attractions, there are more places to eat each evening than can be listed, all fitting various price ranges.

“We have over 3,000 restaurants and taverns and bars and entertainment facilities in the downtown core. In terms of the whole package, of course we have some of the greatest hotels in the whole world. We have five of the top 10 hotel brands in the whole world,” Welsh says. “You’re going to find a very, very dense, walkable downtown. Great shopping, great restaurants, great attractions, if people have time to take to the city in addition to being here for business purposes.”

Back on the business side of things, event organizers have tried to make it easy to plan your schedule. Registration is open, and all courses are listed with times and other information at Putting a plan on paper is important to making the event a success, according to Brian Canning, a Motor Age contributor who has written about attending industry events. He suggests writing out what you want to accomplish at the event, making that plan when registering and sticking to it once in Chicago.

You also can take advantage of the event to talk to owners and technicians just like you from around the country and see what they are doing in their shop and how they are solving problems and fixing vehicles. You most likely will discover they’re facing issues similar to you and they might have ideas and solutions that will work for you. It’s a great way to start an informal 20 Group.

“Getting out of your comfort zone certainly is going to be scary, but it is also going to give you the rare opportunity to see what is new and improving in the industry and give you the very real opportunity to make great contacts and identify viable solutions to the things that are affecting your operation,” Canning suggests.

And for those exhibiting at the show, Welsh notes a new “bill of rights” for attendees and exhibitors that makes the site appealing.

“There is a bill of rights that simply says, ‘Show managers and exhibitors can perform their own work in any size booth, using their own ladders, or hand tools, cordless tools, power tools or other tools designated by MPDA,’” he notes. “This is probably the single biggest change that we made in the building. Then if you go on, it will talk about the expanded straight time and the use of personal vehicles. …

“Along with the reforms with our labor partners, that came to be one of the biggest changes. For the smaller exhibitors, that has a major, major, major change. And that is law. That is not a contract,” Welsh adds. 

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