Thursday, the Hyatt Regency will host an event where we discuss the importance of the many meetings that are hosted in New Orleans. As a result, I felt compelled to discuss the correlation between these events and the extraordinary, positive impact upon our economy.
Almost without exception, what happens around a convention center is good for the local economy. But what happens inside a convention center often ripples out even further. While we can track event-driven increases in hotel occupancy and local vendor contracts, it’s harder to quantify the consequential connections and industry-changing breakthroughs that can be traced back to the kind of synergy and serendipity particular to in-person gatherings.
The business of convention centers is not just boosting the local economy — it is, at its core, fostering innovation, collaboration and progress.
Renowned futurist Bruce Mao recently said, “What routinely happens at convention centers is likely the single most important time in the world for that particular industry.” Let that sink in.
When whooping cough was killing up to 6,000 children a year in the early 1900s, two scientists reported their breakthrough vaccine at the annual convention of the American Public Health Association. Within five years of that meeting, the vaccine was mass-produced, and whooping cough incidents rapidly fell to permanently low levels.
It’s not surprising that world-shaping moments like this often happen during meetings and conventions. Imagine what could be next. When the American Association for Cancer Research convenes, what breakthrough treatments might come from experts sharing details of their research or clinical practice over a breakout session? What life-changing disruptive technology will spark from ideas shared at the next developer week?
Convention centers can also be catalysts for positive change on an individual level. There is simply no substitute for being in a room with peers and mentors, in a setting that facilitates learning and opens up new opportunities for connection and growth. Convention centers are where the brightest minds in a specific domain or subject go to network, develop leadership skills, influence public policy and deepen knowledge through continuing education. These are all things I have witnessed firsthand at conventions here in New Orleans.
Since opening in 1985, the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center has generated over $5.7 billion in taxes, produced over $90 billion in total economic impact and is responsible for supporting over 24,000 permanent jobs. So, yes. Meetings do mean business.
But it’s worth pointing out that, in any given year, the NOENMCC hosts thousands of scientists, biologists, geophysicists, technology entrepreneurs, doctors, nurses and other professionals. Those minds — collaborating, sharing, challenging and reimagining their collective industry standards and practices — play a vital, inextricable and multi-faceted role in the very human race toward progress and prosperity, especially as global health concerns are on the rise.
In addition to providing a stage for addressing some of the challenges mankind faces, meetings can be a reliable boon to local economies and a dynamic tool for individual professional development. Supporting our convention centers is vital, not just to their host communities, but also to the very fabric of human advancement.
Tim Hemphill is vice president of marketing and sales at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.