Democratic National Convention 2012 Notebook: So, what’s in it for Charlotte and North Carolina?

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The room filled up quickly. When the Charlotte Chamber announced the “DNC 2012: Charlotte’s Kickoff” event — featuring convention executives and local leaders — that was all it took for the community to turn out with questions. What will it mean for my business? Will there be opportunities to volunteer? Are student internships available? Is the fundraising effort on track?

At Central Piedmont Community College on Tuesday, representatives of public relations and marketing firms mingled with caterers and event planners. (About 150 from the region turned out.) Fifteen months out, the DNC team has already moved to town. After this week’s give and take, Steve Kerrigan — the CEO of the 2012 Democratic National Convention — knows that’s a wise move. Kerrigan, who led the host committee for the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston, shared the stage with Mayor Anthony Foxx; Dan Murrey, executive director of the host committee; former Mayor Harvey Gantt, who has talked with organizers of past host cities, and the event’s moderator, Charlotte Chamber president Bob Morgan.

All the panelists talked about the “legacy” of the prestige event, what it will mean for the image of the city after 2012. It’s already having an impact with other groups once skeptical but now convinced that Charlotte can handle large conferences, said Murrey.

But before, during and after the event, Colette Forrest of People's Voice Management Group Inc., a small planning and marketing firm, expressed her concern that “these guys play fair with African-American involvement” in convention business opportunities. “I know that Anthony Foxx gets it,” she said. “I don’t know if these other people do.”

After the hour-long presentation, Kerrigan assured her that diversity is a “huge part of what we’re doing.” He told me the DNC’s commitment has been “consistent.” Forrest told me she will wait for more details, as will others looking for opportunities.

Southern hospitality aside, when it comes to business, Charlotte means business.

Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Root, NPR, Creative Loafing and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her “Keeping It Positive” segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 on TV’s Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter. http://twitter.com/mcurtisnc3.

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