The National Urban League will fill beachfront hotels and make a big impact on the service industry when its annual conference comes to Greater Fort Lauderdale for the first time in July, 2015. The timing is also great for Broward County, which turns 100 years old in 2015, marking a century of dramatic racial and economic change.

The Greater Fort Lauderdale area is already a major destination of choice for African American groups and families and the high profile and programs of the Urban League of Broward County, led by President and CEO Dr. Germaine Smith-Baugh, helped the city win the event over nine other competitors.

There will be opportunities in 2015 to do cross-over events, aligning tourism and community, Broward County Mayor Kristin Jacobs was quick to point out.  Conference attendees will participate in volunteer community projects during their visit, and local businesses, performers and community members will be involved in and supporters of the conference. 

According to Albert Tucker, Vice President for Multicultural Development for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, "Everything we do is about community partnerships and relationships that encourage growth.  We're bringing tourism off the beach and onto the Sistrunk corridor, which means economic viability to the city and community."

"Broward County is one of the most diverse multi-ethnic urban areas in the country, (second only to Queens, NY) and the Sistrunk Corridor in Fort Lauderdale's historic Black community is an emerging business and arts district, offering even more appeal," said Nicki E. Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. "I can think of no better setting for a conference that is focused on affecting community change," said Marc H. Morial, National Urban League President and CEO.

Details of the conference will evolve over the next year, but national and local Urban League officials and state, county and city leaders who attended the announcement meeting hinted at promising plans ahead.

Rhonda Spears Bell, National Senior Vice president and Chief Marketing Officer for the National Urban League, noted that the 102-year-old organization which focuses on education, jobs, housing and health has held its annual Mid-winter Conference training affiliate CEOs in Fort Lauderdale for 10 years. Now the National Urban League is looking at the city in a different way, she said."It will be a different kind of conference with a local flavor and flair."

National Urban League conferences typically draw major news and policy makers and celebrities. The President, Vice President, First Lady and Cabinet members and business leaders like Bill Gates have shown up. Activities will range from health and college fairs, job connections, and small business entrepreneur forums to workshops, cultural events, and performances by nationally-known entertainers. A Youth Summit will run concurrently with the conference and 500 participants from around country will be housed at local university campuses.

The goal now is to get local business and community involvement and backing to help make the conference visit a success. Then, hopefully, people will come back again and again when the conference is over - to celebrate Broward's second century.