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Critics question tactics luring conventions to Raleigh

Posted September 11, 2008
Updated September 12, 2008

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— Officials confirmed Thursday the city has lured events to the new Raleigh Convention Center by offering incentives – a practice some critics are questioning.

Director of Convention Sales Laurie Okun said Raleigh has used incentives, including price cuts on rooms, to sway some groups to choose Raleigh over East Coast competitors.

"When it was a hole in the ground or less, you have to offer some kind of incentive because people are booking conferences on a virtual dream,” Okun said.

After six years of planning and three years of construction, the $221 million center opened Sept. 5.

The conservative nonprofit group the John Locke Foundation released a report this month stating tax dollars would be used to pay for the center’s incentive discounts.

“You’re paying a convention to come to Raleigh instead of coming to a similar city on the East Coast,” Mitch Kokai, director of communications for the John Locke Foundation, said.

Many cities with convention centers offer incentives to lure events, officials said.

Okun said the competition of the center has made it easier to recruit events.

Nearly 240 events are booked at the center. Of those, 135 are conventions.

The National Agents Alliance, which includes about 1,600 insurance agents, will be the first to convene at the center on Friday. The Burlington-based group previously held conventions in Atlanta and Dallas. Misty Thebeau, with National Agents Alliance, said the group wanted to bring money to Raleigh.

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  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Sep 12, 2008

    "I salute the forward looking wisdom of Raleigh's city officials who created such a great venue. The convention center will help maintain Raleigh's progressive posture for years to come. Offering incentives is standard practice for all such facilities, and is perfectly acceptable."

    Typical liberal response. Liberals call government wasting our money both forward thinking and progressive. Progressive is a code word for liberal and leftist. Liberals also think it's acceptable to waste our tax dollars as they want to.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Sep 12, 2008

    First the city of Meekerville wasted money on this white elephant of a convention center that could have been put to better use including infrastructure and highway improvements.

    Now the city of meekerville is wasting money bribing groups to book the convention center.

    We need a new mayor, city council, and city manager who won't waste taxpayers money on white elephants that shouldn't be built.

  • Eduardo1 Sep 11, 2008

    Prior to my forced retirement up North, I was involved in Organizations that Booked our own conventions throughout the United States and Canada. We were always offered incentives by how many rooms that we booked. It may have been as simple as one or more FREE cocktail hours for all attendees, free rooms for x amount of attendees, special Happy hours,, free tickets for events in the area, concerts, sporting events. I do not think that these incentives came out of the taxpayers, it was more of a streamline of the profit line. Also by having these incentives, it helped all business in the area to make money: limo or cabs from the airport, local gift shops, bars, restaurants, entertainment, etc. I think that good management
    marks up the price, now has room to give the incentives, this is not cheating, it is the way business is done. When the market says one steak free when you buy one at the full price, your profit is less, but you still have profit, first the MU then the lower price

  • StrickDaddy Sep 11, 2008

    It is a first class facility and one that will earn Raleigh not only its money back...but will make money too.

    Really--and how many conventions will it take to get back $221 Million???

    Especially when they are giving away free rooms, etc. to "lure" people here.

    We couldn't get any use out of the old Convention center--we won't get any out of this one. for the next two years we will--because it is new--but after that---it will sit and be used sparingly.

    Except for the winos who will sleep ont he steps at night.

    We need a new mayor AND City manager.

  • mjohann Sep 11, 2008

    This is the best story someone could come up with?

  • Road-wearier Sep 11, 2008

    I'll say this first: the Convention Center is a boondoggle. But now that the darn thing is there the incentives are needed to be competitive with other cities - that is the market after all. And aren't the John Locke people all about complete and unfettered markets?

  • animaenagerie Sep 11, 2008

    Thank you, RainierBeer.

  • saltnsanddefenderofdamiddleclass Sep 11, 2008

    I hope the place doesn't use any water. I can only conserve so much to offset the area's growth and with weekly showers it's hard to invite friends over. Disposable clothes aren't working very well either. You know, even the governor has lectured us on water usage so I expect the visitors to join in the conservation effort. Is anyone checking out the water usage at the hotels and restaurants downtown? If more people come from out of state won't they use the water? Aren't they contributing to global warming by driving here? I doubt they're carpooling. The sierra club should be out there protesting this building day and night because just because of the environmental damage.

  • foetine Sep 11, 2008

    whatelseisnew - do you not actually look at the new stories at this site? There is an article about premiums being slashed.

    Isn't 1/10th of the bookings being hyped for the Convention Center coming from the NC PE teachers? You'll know when they are in town by the double knit polyester coach shorts hustling around Fayetteville Street.

  • RainierBeer Sep 11, 2008

    my goodness! if we don't put the incentives out there, the competition will! this is a NON STORY as far as I'm concerned. people need to find something else more important to worry about

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