About 5,000 executives and meeting professionals are gathering in Columbus this weekend for a convention that could lead to many future conventions in the city.
The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) is holding its annual meeting and exposition at the Columbus Convention Center at 400 N. High St. on Saturday Its members are expected to make a $16 million impact on the local economy.
“This was a big jump for them and a leap of faith quite honestly, to give Columbus a shot at this,” says Brian Ross, president and CEO of Experience Columbus. "And if it was not for them feeling our city would rally together, they would not have chosen us.”
The city had pursued ASAE since 2004. Columbus leaders coordinated their efforts to show what the city has to offer.
“They met the mayor. They met the county commissioners,” Ross says. “They met the corporate community. They met civic leaders. They met our hospitality leaders. And how well we worked together.”
Ross says Columbus stakeholders visited ASAE at its various meetings in Dallas, Chicago, Salt Lake City and Toronto so they could understand the importance of the association professionals.
Ross says the hotel building boom that continues in Downtown Columbus and the Short North also contributed to scoring the convention.
“When the new Hilton hotel downtown was built, that gave us an opportunity to go after and secure their business,” Ross says. “We had enough convention hotel rooms to accommodate them.”
Columbus boasts other advantages that leaders pitched.
“Then with the expansion and renovation of the convention center, that was another thing that was very positive," he says. "And the increase in our direct flights to additional cities, particularly to the West Coast, had another major impact on them choosing the city as well.”
The central reason Columbus wanted the ASAE convention is because it expects members will be motivated to come back for their own conventions.
“Everyone that is part of the association coming in, they’re C-suite leaders," he says. "So they have the ability to say, 'I’m going to take my association to Columbus in the future.'”
Ross estimates about 20% of those attending will do exactly that, based on past city's experiences He says that could bring an additional $500 million in economic impact to Columbus over the next 5-10 years.
“And the larger events they typically plan five to ten years out, we will have that hotel inventory developed and online to accommodate them when they’re in the process of booking their future events,” Ross says.
Ross says while more hotels are constructed, some ASAE members could hold small- and medium-size events that Columbus can already accommodate.
“Tremendous opportunity for us,” Ross says.