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Microsoft Ignite conference returns to Chicago in November after 9-year hiatus

Robert Channick, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Science & Technology News

Nearly a decade after holding its first Microsoft Ignite event in Chicago — and then abruptly pulling up stakes for other cities — the software giant’s annual information technology conference is coming back to McCormick Place in November.

Microsoft’s return engagement, announced Monday, is expected to bring thousands of IT professionals to McCormick Place and $44 million in economic impact to the city during the five-day event, a late-season windfall for Chicago’s tech and tourism industries.

“Microsoft’s choice to host Ignite 2024 in Chicago reaffirms this city’s standing as a hub for innovation, technological advancement, and major corporate events,” Mayor Brandon Johnson said in a news release.

Launched in May 2015, the inaugural Ignite conference drew 20,000 attendees to McCormick Place, generating nearly 90,000 hotel room nights and high hopes for a recurring annual event. But five months later, Microsoft announced it was canceling its scheduled 2016 Chicago return, moving Ignite to Atlanta and pushing it back to the fall.

At the time, it was a significant blow for Chicago, with a Microsoft corporate partner notifying more than 50 participating hotels to cancel reservations. Officials estimated the loss of the 2016 Ignite conference cost the city $56 million in economic impact.

For nine years, Microsoft Ignite took place far from its Chicago origins.

 

After one year in Atlanta, Ignite was held in Orlando for three years, then canceled a planned move to New Orleans in 2020 when the pandemic hit, going exclusively digital until 2021. For the past two years, Microsoft has hosted the in-person conference in its home city of Seattle.

The return of Microsoft Ignite to Chicago is scheduled for Nov. 18 to 22, with the event centered on the burgeoning applications of artificial intelligence.

“This year’s focus is to empower our customers and partners through AI transformation,” Takeshi Numoto, Microsoft’s chief marketing officer, said in the release.

Microsoft did not respond to an additional request for comment Monday on its decision to return to Chicago, or future plans for the conference.

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