June 7, 2022

ICMA National Conference in September to Showcase City, Hilton Columbus Downtown

In September, the Greater Columbus Convention Center will host its biggest international event since before the pandemic when the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) comes to town for its 108th annual conference.

As many as 5,000 local-government professionals from around the world are expected to attend for four days of education, professional development and networking, starting Sept. 17. It will be the first event to fill all 1,000 rooms of the Hilton Columbus Downtown hotel, just a few weeks after the grand opening of the new 402 tower, as well as an additional 2000 hotel rooms across downtown Columbus.

It’s fitting for the Hilton to have a starring role; the hotel was essential to Columbus landing this major event, according to the host committee co-chairs for the convention, Delaware City Manager R. Thomas Homan and Miami County Administrator Charlotte Colley. ICMA chooses its conference location several years in advance. Back in 2009, Columbus made a bid for the 2016 conference but lost out because at the time it had no large downtown hotel.

Success came in 2014, after the Hilton 401 tower opened. “That absolutely made the difference,” Homan said. This will be ICMA’s first annual conference in Ohio since 2000, when Cincinnati hosted.

ICMA members are excited just to be getting together in person for the first time since 2019, said Jeremy Figoten, director of conferences for ICMA. The 2020 event was all virtual and last year’s conference in Portland was partly virtual and attracted only about half the typical in-person attendance. “This group definitely thrives on being around one another,” Figoten said. “There’s a really heavy emphasis on professional development.”

Beyond the excitement around coming back together and being part of the Hilton’s first major event, the Ohio hosts have a full slate of local activities for the guests. ICMA conferences usually don’t start on a Saturday, but the Columbus event will feature a Buckeye exception: a tailgate for The Ohio State University home football game against the University of Toledo Rockets.

A welcome reception at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum will be co-hosted by Dublin City Manager Dana McDaniel, who also is a brigadier general in the Ohio Army National Guard. There’s a 5K race and a golf outing, and a pickup soccer game — more typically an under-the-radar event — will take on a higher profile this year, taking place in Historic Crew Stadium, the Crew’s original home (and, when it opened in 1999, the nation’s first soccer-specific Major League Soccer venue).

The final big social event will take place at COSI on Tuesday night.

In all, organizers expect the conference to generate 9,800 room nights and $4.7 million in direct visitor spending.

“We’re encouraging folks to come early and stay late. Bring your family,” Colley said. Columbus’ central location means guests or their families can visit attractions around the state such as The Wilds wildlife park in Muskingum County, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton and Amish Country in Holmes County.

Said Homan, “This is an opportunity for local governments across the state to showcase their region and the state.”































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