The Windy City is sometimes mistakenly associated with the burly weather bristling in off of Lake Michigan. When the howling wind rips its way along Rush Street or Michigan Avenue on a cold January night, one might duck into a handy pub or tavern to escape the harsh weather. But history tells us that years ago, the wayfarer might have traded those cold, blustery winds for a lot of hot air once inside.

In 1893, with a population of 1.5 million people, Chicago was the manufacturing and agricultural center of the nation. The city dominated the huge rail network in the middle of the United States. Chicagoans were so impressed with their own city that the New York press named Chicago "the windy city" - not because of the weather, but because of all the "air" coming out of it.

The HVAC industry thinks pretty highly of itself also. If McCormick Place, site of the 2006 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo), isn't under extreme positive pressure from the tens of thousands of salespeople, engineers, contractors, and reps blowing their own hot air, then the pope doesn't have a balcony.


An estimated 35,000 plus HVAC professionals will descend upon McCormick's North and South halls during the three-day AHR Expo and the Winter Meeting of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). Typically, the largest of the annual AHR Expo events take place in Chicago: 37,000 people in 1995, 33,500 in 1999, and 35,464 in 2003. Comparatively, last year's event held in Orlando drew 26,849 total attendees. Perhaps the weakest showing of recent years was in San Francisco in 1998 when only 19,500 people were in attendance.

What's so special about Chicago in January? It's cold, windy (which makes it colder), and usually covered with snow (which also makes it colder). Aside from the fact that McCormick Place is the nation's largest convention center, why would so many people flock to the usually brutal cold North instead of the milder climes of the West Coast or Florida?

The NEWS conducted some informal research into this odd industry behavioral phenomenon and has conclusive data that indicates HVAC people are different than ordinary people. HVAC people have this completely contrarian approach to conventions, trade shows, weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, etc. - you name it. HVAC people love the bitter cold of the winter and blazingly hot summers. Let's face it. It makes for good business.

It's easy to understand why Chicago in January is such a strong attraction. No matter how uncooperative the weather may have been for business where you live, during 2005, it does the heart good to get a shot of nasty winter weather to start the New Year.

Everyone makes the pilgrimage to the AHR Expo in Chicago - it's a necessary, rite of passage and the offering of sacrificial travel and expense reports to appease the HVAC gods is good for the city's economy.

Keep Orlando. Keep San Francisco. Nobody wants to go to an HVAC show during the dead of winter with the sun beating down on their taxi cab. It's bad karma. Give me a pair of cold, wet, squeaky shoes after trudging through the slush in the parking lot, to stand in all day while I'm doing booth duty in McCormick Place.

Yeah! That's what I'm talking about!

Mike Murphy, Editor-In-Chief: 248-244-6446; 248-244-2905 (fax);

Publication date: 01/23/2006