GREAT EXPECTATIONS' ABOUND FOR URBAN LEAGUE'S 2015 CONFERENCE
Thousands expected to attend the event in Fort Lauderdale
February 9, 2013 | By Arlene Satchell, Sun Sentinel
For the Urban League of Broward County, the road to hosting the annual gathering of one of the nation's oldest civil rights organizations will involve raising lots of money, recruiting hundreds of volunteers and strategic planning to welcome thousands.
At last week's announcement that the National Urban League had chosen Fort Lauderdale as the site for their 2015 annual conference, tourism leaders who helped lure the major event issued the first call to action to local business leaders: "We need each and every one of you to empower your community, to empower your pockets, to empower your influence to ensure the success of this conference," said Albert Tucker, vice president multicultural business development for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. "It's going to be incredible."
The annual four-day event typically draws national leaders as speakers – from presidents to celebrities – as well as influential community and business leaders, top policy-makers and academicians from across the country for networking, dialogue and outreach service, according to league officials.
The event also makes headlines. The 102-year-old New York-based civil rights organization bills its national conference as a forum for debate and discussion on policy issues and finding solutions for challenges affecting African-Americans and urban communities. Issues addressed in the past have included from high school dropout rates to the state of black-owned businesses.
"The National Urban League Conference has been the only event of its kind to feature both major-party presidential nominees during nearly all of the last several elections," said National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial, in a recent statement. This year, the league's convention will be in Philadelphia and in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2014. Patrick J. Franklin, Urban League of Palm Beach County president and CEO, has been attending the annual conference for 11 years. "It's an uplifting event, it's a celebration," said Franklin.
Urban league officials said they will create an advisory committee to start planning soon for the Fort Lauderdale convention scheduled for July 2015. Here's a look at how the conference is likely to unfold:
Attendees: Roughly 5,000 registered attendees expected, but as many as 9,500 people are typically drawn to the destination hosting the convention, CVB research shows. One registration usually includes several attendees, officials said.
Fundraising: The Urban League of Broward County, which played an instrumental role in Fort Lauderdale's selection, will have major fundraising to do as part of its host obligations. For the 2008 conference in Orlando, the Metropolitan Orlando Urban League —now called the Central Florida Urban League— set a fund-raising goal of $1.3 million to go toward the opening night reception and other programs, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Hotels/Transportation: The headquarters hotel is the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, but contracts are also being negotiated with Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Hyatt Regency Pier 66, Embassy Suites and Renaissance Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port Hotel, CVB officials said. Transportation shuttles will be provided between the hotels and the convention center.
High-profile speakers: Past conferences have drawn some of the nation's top political figures and elected officials including President Barack Obama, Attorney General Hon. Eric H. Holder, Jr. and Senator John McCain.
Economic impact: Officials expected the conference to have an $8.5 million to $9 million economic impact. In addition, the conference's free Expo Hall will give local businesses the opportunity to showcase their products and services and individuals looking for jobs can take advantage of its employment and networking fair, said Franklin.
"Local businesses will benefit from the dollars spent in the area," said Central Florida Urban League President and CEO Allie L. Braswell Friday. Braswell was recently in Fort Lauderdale for the National Urban League's mid-winter conference.
Tourism boost: Officials said the mid-summer event also will help during the traditionally softer tourism period.
"July is an excellent time for us to be able to bring a conference of this size to the area as this time of year is usually a little bit slower," said Broward County Mayor Kristin Jacobs.
Putting on a successful convention also will show similar organizations the area is capable of handling their national conferences, Tucker said. "The status of the destination improves tremendously as other organizations will follow the lead of the Urban League to bring their conference to our shores."
Showcasing the area: The CVB expects to showcase Fort Lauderdale's historic black Sistrunk Boulevard community, which houses the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center and other heritage attractions, during the conference.
Community involvement: National Urban League officials say locals will also benefit from the conference's career, business, youth and social programs. Hundreds of local volunteers will help put on the convention and at past conventions the organization has launched community projects. For example, in New Orleans the group helped distribute hurricane kits.
"It's just as much for the local community as it is for those coming from around the country," said National Urban League Senior Vice President Rhonda Spears Bell at the recent press event announcing Fort Lauderdale's selection. "We want to make sure we're leaving a stamp on the community when we leave."