Meetings Advocacy Groups Court Feds

As part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness of the meetings industry at the White House and in Congress, representatives from Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) met jointly with U.S. Labor Department officials in March.

"We wanted the administration and Congress to appreciate and understand the economic engine that meetings really are," explains John Graham, ASAE president and CEO. "The Labor Department is now clear that the meetings and conventions business is a $100-billion-plus industry that employs thousands of people."

The Labor Department wants to focus on community colleges as a training ground for the hospitality industry, Graham says. The department also is interested in diversity initiatives — something the meetings industry has been working on for several years. "One area we explored was bringing minority students into the industry," notes Colin Rorrie, MPI's president and CEO.

While this first conversation with the Labor Department only opened up the lines of communication, and no programs have yet been created, Rorrie says the meeting was positive.

"This gives us a chance to come back to the government with, for example, a grant proposal that would offer scholarships to minorities interested in pursuing careers in our industry," he explains.

MPI also contributed to the first-ever "Meeting and Convention Planners Statement," a lengthy explanation of the industry that will appear in the 2006-07 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.