Missouri Business Headlines

Meet in Missouri Act seeks to bolster convention business

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Missouri tourism generated nearly $16 billion in economic activity last year and conventions play an important role in attracting visitors here.

Last year, more than 330,000 people attended meetings in Kansas City alone, generating more than $300 million in economic impact, according to Visit KC.

Landing a single large event can bring a bustle of activity to a local economy. The American Bus Association’s 2015 national event brought more than 3,300 attendees to downtown St. Louis for four days of meetings. Direct spending during the event approached $4.2 million, according to the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission.

A bill passed by the Missouri House is seeking to help attract more big meetings to Missouri. House Bill 1698 would allow Missouri lawmakers to appropriate money to a special convention event fund. These resources would then be doled out as grants to help local organizations land big conventions.

“It is designed to help local municipalities and [convention and visitors bureaus] attract events and organizations to their area through what is effectively a closing fund,” said bill sponsor Rep. Caleb Rowden, a Republican from Columbia.

The bill would target the kinds of conventions that fill Missouri hotel rooms with out of state visitors. Only conventions that draw at least half of their participants from out of state would qualify for a grant.

To qualify for a grant, the convention would have to draw more than 50 percent of its participants from out of state and would require overnight hotel stays.

The grant funds could be used for things such as security, utility costs, cleaning, event production, set-up and tear-down expenses, rental fees, personnel and event-specific construction needs.

Rep. Rowden has titled his bill the Meet in Missouri Act. On March 14, the bill passed the Missouri House by a vote of 107 to 38. It now goes to the Missouri Senate for consideration.

“When big conventions come to Missouri, there are so many positives for our state. Not only do these events generate economic activity during the course of the meetings, they also give us incredible exposure to thousands of visitors who might be experiencing Missouri for the first time. These people then return home and help us with the most valuable marketing tool there is—word of mouth,” said Tracy King, vice president of governmental affairs with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Every city in every state is trying to land these events. It’s incredibly competitive. Missouri’s central location gives us a great advantage for conventions seeking a national audience. We believe the Meet in Missouri Act will give us one more tool to help local convention promotors find success.”

For more information, contact King at tking@mochamber.com or by phone at 573.634.3511.

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