Renaissance Center view by Patricia Drury
Last week Detroit became the largest city ever to file for bankruptcy, but despite its financial woes, its convention and visitors bureau wants planners to know the Motor City is still open for meetings.
In a letter sent last Friday by Meet Detroit, Larry Alexander, president and CEO of the bureau, reassured clients. “I can confidently assure you that Detroit is open for business and thriving more than ever before, despite its financial troubles,” he said, pointing out that private investment in the city will continue to the tune of $11 billion. He also noted that the city is investing $1.5 billion over the next 10 years in its police and fire departments, which will ensure that convention attendees are safe.
Do meeting planners booked in Detroit have any recourse if they wanted to take their business elsewhere? Not according to meetings industry attorney Jim Goldberg, principal at Goldberg & Associates, Washington, D.C. “The practical impact on meetings should be negligible,” he said. “You can’t cancel if a third party goes bankrupt, even if it was a hotel, despite what a lot of hotel say. Federal bankruptcy law does not allow the ‘other’ party (the one not filing) to cancel.”
In recent years, Detroit's Cobo Center has had major updgrades, including the addition of a new 40,000-square-foot-ballroom, which opens in September. The 367-room Pontchartrain Hotel across from the center was also just renovated.
Nontheless, media images of the past few days paint a picture of hopeless urban blight.
“I assure you that is not what you will see when you bring your meeting to Detroit,” Alexander said in his letter. “Like most other major urban areas, Detroit’s challenges exist in neighborhoods with high poverty and unemployment.”
But Downtown Detroit, he said, “continues to be a hub of vibrancy and activity.”
So far, one group, the Presbyterian Church’s Office of the General Assembly, has publicly announced that it has no plans to move its 2014 meeting from the convention center. “By our presence in Detroit, we stand with people who are creatively working to bring forth a new city in a difficult time,” Reverend Thomas Hay told the Detroit Free Press.