Big convention will land here


    The Fraternal Order of Eagles will hold its North American Convention at DeVos Place in 2012. The Convention and Visitors Bureau, which landed the meeting, said the gathering will be one of the largest conventions held in the city.

    “It will have more than 2,500 people,” said Janet Korn, bureau vice president of marketing.

    CVB Executive Vice President George Helmstead said the meeting would generate about 5,500 room nights and an estimated economic impact of $4.2 million.

    “They’re a close knit group and getting them here was a team effort,” he said.

    Korn said the FOE board of directors recently visited the convention center and area attractions while they held their regular board meeting here.

    “And that helped to seal the deal, because seeing is believing in Grand Rapids,” said Korn.

    Those words — “seeing is believing” — have become a theme that the bureau sales team has used to convince meeting planners to choose the city. It’s worked especially well when the markets the CVB is competing with are larger and have a more established reputation in the hospitality business.

    “They just don’t know until they get here, and then they always say things like ‘I’m shocked,’ ‘I’m surprised,’ ‘This is just what you said,’” said Korn.

    “This was the perfect textbook way of how we book business here,” said Helmstead.

    The bureau competed for the conference against Milwaukee, Louisville, Cincinnati and New Orleans.

    The Fraternal Order of Eagles was founded in 1898 as “The Order of Good Things” and has grown into an international nonprofit organization that promotes peace, prosperity, gladness and hope. It has more than 1.1 million male members in the U.S. and Canada, and 335,000 females belong to its 1,500 women auxiliaries. Its motto is “People Helping People” and it donates more than $100 million each year to local communities and charities.

    “It’s a great philanthropic group,” said Helmstead.

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