GRAND RAPIDS — Now known for the terrifying flight of the refugees who sought shelter there and FEMA Director Michael Brown’s infamous confession that the agency knew nothing of their plight, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans was until a month ago an icon of the convention and meetings industry.
Boasting the largest contiguous-space exhibit hall in the nation, it was regularly chosen as a key anchor in the rotation of most major association and corporate meetings, and was tremendously popular for small and mid-sized conventions and meetings, as well.
In addition to the convention center,
For the months of September and October alone, there were 116 conventions and corporate meetings scheduled among these facilities, according to the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention Bureau, not including the events scheduled at the city’s many hotel facilities.
On Sept. 1,
While some of these are small regional affairs, such as the 1,200-attendee Louisiana State Office of Cultural Development annual meeting or the 225-attendee Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development annual meeting, a great many are large events, including meetings of the American Society of Microbiology (16,000), National Electrical Contractors Association (6,000), Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (11,250) and AARP (20,000).
According to George Helmstead, vice president of sales for Grand Rapids/Kent County CVB, two of the larger events very nearly came to
“So far we’ve had two calls,” he told the Business Journal last week. “They were much larger conventions and they found other sites, but we still could get something. I expect more calls.”
Sweet Adelines International is managed through a firm that has used
in the past, and that group was the first of the two that contacted Helmstead.
“They were calling all over the country looking for someone that could handle them, size-wise,” he said. Like most large events, commitments to speakers and exhibitors prevented a reschedule. Had the city been able to accommodate the event Oct. 4-8, it would have brought 10,000 visitors to
Instead, the group chose the Cobo Arena in
In a press release promoting the victory, Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Larry Alexander welcomed the group to
“For groups in October, we’re pretty tight on space,” Helmstead said. “We couldn’t offer them anything until the third week of November.”
The other organization to contact Helmstead, APICS, The Education Society for Resource Management, chose
) ballroom can handle a meeting that size,” Helmstead said of APICS. “If they wanted a meal function, we’d have to put them in the exhibit hall, but we can do it. (For Sweet Adelines) we were looking at using the (Van Andel) arena.”
Although she wasn’t involved in the relocation, Wendy Kremers, senior supply chain leader for Steelcase Inc., sits on APICS’ national board and conference committee. She wonders if
“A constraint for
She said she believed that many of the attendees would have been forced to stay in hotels as far away as
, an inconvenient distance for APICS’ continuous shuttle runs.
In an e-mail to the Destination Marketing Association International, the
It appears that the competition will for displaced events will be steepest for displaced events among second tier cities such as
According to the Chicago Sun Times last Wednesday,
has already turned away two dozen conventions. More than 30 groups contacted the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, according to spokeswoman Erika Yowell. She told USA Today that the fall is a busy convention season in
The front-runners have been