Democratic National Convention 2012 Notebook: ‘Robust’ vendor directory to live long past the convention, says DNCC chief

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It’s not the first website to ask local and regional businesses to sign up for a chance to connect with 2012 Democratic convention opportunities. But, according to Robyn Hamilton, host committee director of business relations, “it’s important that businesses go to this directory.” She called www.charlottein2012.com the “go-to mechanism” for the host committee and the DNCC. When I asked if pressure by minority and other local businesses had anything to do with the fanfare of the official site launch on Thursday, she told me, “I don’t need any nudging.”

Steve Kerrigan, the CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, led the host committee for the 2004 convention in Boston. He said this set-up “far exceeds” anything done for past conventions.

Dan Murrey said this “important piece of the puzzle” was the “first directive I got” after the DNC picked Charlotte as the site of the 2012 convention and he was chosen to be host committee CEO. “It’s important because this community needs to see opportunities that are created.” Charlotte is investing a lot of time, energy and resources, he said.

Hamilton, Murrey and Kerrigan — with an appearance by Mayor Anthony Foxx — discussed the re-launch of the site on Thursday (it went live the day before) at the convention staff’s offices on South Tryon. Though the website also includes information about the city — accessible for media and visitors — and ways to volunteer, the emphasis was on the vendor directory tool, designed to help national groups connect with local and regional businesses. DNC 2012 has been predicted to have a $150 million impact, with more than 1,200 events not related to official convention activity.

The site is sure to answer some of the questions asked by businesses anxious to be included in convention events, expected to draw 35,000 with needs to match. Just last week, minority businesses in the Carolinas set up their own website. Hamilton said the committee will continue “outreach efforts” to make all businesses aware of the vendor directory. Companies can enter details about their size, nature and capabilities, including whether they're minority-, woman- or veteran-owned. Hamilton encouraged even non-traditional businesses to give it a try.

The directory “helps strengthen business relationships beyond the convention,” said Hamilton. Foxx said it could “build bridges for businesses that might not have worked together in the past.”

Though the master contract stipulates that union labor get priority for certain services and Kerrigan told me “organized labor is a huge part of our party,” he said “everybody’s going to get a shot.”

With experience at the Carolinas Minority Supplier Development Council, Hamilton isn’t worried. “I’ve been doing this for over 20 years,” she told me. “I know how to get this done.”

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.

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