CINCINNATI - Cincinnati won another major civil rights conventionThursday.
The National Urban League confirmed that its 2014 AnnualConference will be held in the Queen City.
The announcement was made at the start of the Cincinnati USAConvention & Visitors Bureau Annual Meeting at the Duke EnergyCenter and set a euphoric tone for the gathering.
“Bringing the National Urban League to Cincinnati is agreat victory for this entire community,” said Donna JonesBaker, President and CEO of the Urban League of GreaterCincinnati.
The organization was booked for a Cincinnati conference in 2003,but cancelled because of the unrest that occurred in 2001.
Since that time, Mayor Mark Mallory said a major transformationhas taken place in the city, especially the area ofpolice/community relations. That occurred with the signing of theCollaborative Agreement in April of 2002 that led to CPOP orCommunity Problem-Oriented Policing.
“We have a police department that is absolutely committedto a different type of policing – one that understands thecommunity, embraces the community and tries new approaches tofighting crime,” the Mayor said. “It’s adepartment that I’m extremely proud of.”
Baker Jones agreed that better police/community relations was abig factor in the National Urban League’s decision.
“I think there’s more of a sense of trust.There’s a sense of community. There’s a sense ofwe’re going to work this out,” she said. “I thinkthe National Urban League recognized that.”
Cincinnati hosted a regional conference for the group in 2009and Baker Jones added the impact of that meeting cannot beunderstated.
“They saw the city. They saw all of the wonderful thingsabout who we are as Cincinnatians and decided to come,” shesaid. “In other words, Cincinnati was the perfect host fromthe hotels to the restaurants to the police department and everyoneworked hard to make our attendees feel welcome.”
Other national civil rights organizations have noticed thechange as well. Both the NAACP and National Baptist Conference havecome to Cincinnati in recent years.
Dan Lincoln, President/CEO of the Cincinnati USA Convention& Visitors Bureau, said it’s a really big win forCincinnati.
“This is the last group that cancelled in 2001 soit’s a real affirmation of the full circle that we’vecome, the work that Cincinnati has done and the work that stillneeds to be done,” he said.
The 2014 conference means 7,000 hotel room nights booked and anestimated economic impact of millions of dollars on the regionaleconomy.
Mayor Mallory said that’s important, but added it’scrucial that the rest of the country and the world see Cincinnatias a top-tier convention destination.
“Cincinnati is a great place to come, spend time, spendmoney, have fun and get your meeting done in a city that fullyembraces everyone who is out there and wants to be a part ofwhat’s happening here,” he said.
Looking ahead, Lincoln said the Duke Energy Center can handlethe National Urban League and other major groups with plenty ofroom to spare.
However, he added a study will begin next year to take a lookahead at what the community’s convention facility needs mightbe 10, 15 or 20 years.
“There’s no immediate need to expand the centertoday or tomorrow, but we want to be good stewards andstrategically look at the center and the whole district around thecenter,” Lincoln added.
That includes how the blocks adjacent to Duke Energy Centermight be developed to provide services for the conventiontrade.