RCMA 2009 will convene in Grand Rapids, Michigan, January 27-30, 2009.

This is RCMA's first conference in a Northern city since Pittsburgh in 2004, and Milwaukee before that in 2001. I live in Minnesota, and there's no denying that it's cold in the North in January. But Northern cities know that they need to work extra hard to attract meetings and conventions for the winter months. And they do.

The people from Grand Rapids hosted a high-energy closing session at RCMA 2008 and showed that they're going to make RCMA 2009 a fantastic experience. The mayor of Grand Rapids — George Heartwell, an ordained United Church of Christ minister — even journeyed to Orlando to personally invite RCMA meeting planners to his city.

Grand Rapids has a population of more than 190,000 and is located in Michigan's southern peninsula, not far from Lake Michigan. Chances are you have sat in furniture from Grand Rapids, read from Bibles published in Grand Rapids, and eaten fruit grown in the area. Grand Rapids is considered a world leader in the production of office furniture and is known as a center of Christian publishing, as it is home to Zondervan, Baker Books, and Eerdmans Publishing. The surrounding area is noted for its fruit production. Because of its proximity to Lake Michigan, the climate is ideal for apple, peach, and blueberry farming.

We will spend a lot of time during RCMA 2009 in the centerpiece for meetings in Grand Rapids: DeVos Place convention center. Located downtown on the Grand River, the multilevel facility provides flexible, functional space with 1 million square feet of new and renovated space on a 13-acre site. The center is named for Grand Rapids native Richard DeVos Sr., co-founder of Amway and owner of the Orlando Magic NBA basketball team.

All of that is great, but you want to know about airlift. Gerald R. Ford International Airport (named for President Ford, another Grand Rapids native) serves Grand Rapids, and nonstop passenger service is offered to Atlanta, Chicago/O'Hare, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York/Newark and LaGuardia, Orlando, and Washington, D.C. The airport is served by American Eagle, Continental Express, Delta Connection/Comair, Midwest Connect, Northwest, and United.

You will be hearing much more about RCMA 2009 in the coming months, but for now, commit to attending what I know will be an outstanding conference, one with unmatched opportunities for your professional and personal growth.