Friday, April 15, 2016

Meeting of IBMA Local Organizing Commitee in Raleigh

Yesterday we were honored to be asked to attend a meeting of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for World of Bluegrass and Wide Open Bluegrass held in the conference room of  Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitor's Bureau in the Bank of America building in downtown Raleigh. As you might imagine, the staffs of the Raleigh Convention Center and the RCVB have been shaken by the legislature's passing of the discriminatory HB2 and its effect upon the business climate in North Carolina generally and the City of Raleigh specifically. 

Local Organizing Committee Chairs

When we travel, we make it a point to listen to local radio (mostly NPR affiliates) and to watch television news. We like to try to gain more than a superficial understanding of the places we visit. On our way north from Florida, we had listened to Governor Nathan Deal's courageous veto speech of similar legislation in Georgia, citing its effect on the growing business community in his state as well as mentioning the progress made in the state in terms of broad non-discrimination. 

When we arrived in North Carolina, we heard a great deal about HB2, its effect on the climate and reputation of the state as well as varying reactions to it. Television news leads almost every evening with the story. Several states have refused to allow people traveling on state funds to come to North Carolina while HB2 stands. Performers like Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams, and Ringo Starr have cancelled performances in the State. This questionably promulgated legislation has had a real impact on North Carolina. 

The Shimmer Wall Overlooking the Red Hat Amphitheater

Statement Issued by the Raleigh Convention Center Concerning HB2:
"The Raleigh Convention Center will continue to support all customers and visitors with respect and care regardless of race, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. This position is in alignment with our city’s policy of nondiscrimination. House Bill 2, recently passed by the North Carolina General Assembly, does not reflect the values of our facility. We are privileged to serve a diverse public who contribute immensely to the strength and vitality of our area. It is of the utmost importance that all attendees feel comfortable in our facility; and our staff will make every reasonable accommodation to ensure our guests feel welcome. Our mission is to provide an outstanding customer experience that assures that the needs of all customers are met."

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane

The Mayor of Raleigh, Mary McFarlane, a strong supporter of IBMA and bluegrass music, issued the following statement on the City of Raleigh's web site:
“Raleigh is a welcoming, diverse city that draws its strength from many areas. We have always been a place where people respect each other’s differences and understand that those differences make us stronger. We still have many questions as to the effect of HB2 on our City processes. Our legal staff is conducting a careful review and we hope to have more insight as to the bill's impacts in the coming days. And while HB2 may affect some of our legal language, it does not change our hearts.
Raleigh will always be open to everyone. Everyone. We will continue to support all of our businesses, citizens and visitors with the utmost respect, regardless of race, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Raleigh is great because our people are great. Together, we have created a place like no other. And nothing about that has changed. We will continue to work together, cherish each other and move forward with dignity and respect."

Laurie Okun - Raleigh Convention Center

William Lewis - Pinecone Executive Director

Meanwhile, we were amazed at the energy, thoughtfulness, hard work, and consideration of the sometimes competing needs of IBMA and the City of Raleigh as they work to prepare for this major event coming up in five months. Laurie Okun, of the Raleigh Convention Center , Loren Gold representing the Greater Raleigh Visitor's Bureau and Convention Bureau (GRCVB), and William Lewis, Executive Director of Pine Cone, a regional arts council, function in lead positions with the support of a dozen committees working to support World of Bluegrass and Wide Open Bluegrass, a partnership between the City and IBMA, run during the last week of September. When you arrive in late September, it will all seem to work in concert, but getting it to that state of affairs requires more work than any attendee can imagine. There are heads of a dozen committees meeting to coordinate activities: Streetfest, Community Activation, Arts Activation, Sponsorship, Finance, Marketing/Branding, Media, Volunteers, Business Development, VIP Care, Technology, and The Bluegrass Ramble. Each of the individuals have oversight of a committee charged with the developing that aspect of the effort. Many of the people in the room were chairs of one or more committees, while serving on several others, too. Liaison between the various elements in Raleigh and IBMA is ongoing and constant.  

Loren Gold - GRCVB

It was clear, throughout the meeting, that those participating were capable, willing, and eager-working to balance the interests of Raleigh with those of IBMA. It should go without saying, that good partners recognize that they are most effective when they work for the mutual benefit of all people involved in the enterprise. Examples of this spirit of cooperation ran deeply through the morning's discussions. For instance, the question of coordinating and strengthening the role of IBMA affiliates at the state and local association level was emphasized several times, in terms of recruiting volunteers and helping to boost IBMA membership. Another example was emphasizing the importance of supporting and fortifying the concerts at the Red Hat Amphitheater, which have replaced IBMA's Fan Fest as the major external fund raiser for the organization.

Wide Open Minds - Produced by The Raleigh Convention Center - Video