Conferences ring local cash registers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Conferences ring local cash registers

June 2, 2003
Albany-Employees at Merry Acres are glad June is finally here.

"This is a big group month for us. June has always been a good month," said Gerry Dozier, president of Merry Acres.

 With the South Georgia United Methodist Conference in town, there's not an empty room in the Merry Acres hotels.

"It's certainly filled us up and I imagine the other hotels in Albany too," Dozier said.

Fourteen-hundred delegates representing 657 Methodist churches are in Albany for five days. They should bring in close to a million dollars for the local economy.

It will be eight years before the Methodist conference returns to Albany.  But local officials say there is plenty of other business coming to town.

 "Next week, Jehovah witnesses start. They'll be here for three weeks straight," said Richard Bevins, director of the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Last year, the Jehovah Witness Convention brought in $2.7 million.

The Albany-Dougherty Chamber of Commerce is expecting downtown redevelopment, with the new convention center, to be the hook needed to catch larger regional and state conferences.

 "We'll have better facilities and more adequate space for larger groups," Bevins said.

But some business owners aren't convinced it'll make that much difference.

"The conference center could provide more space, but Albany so far has never been a destination area to draw large events," Dozier said.

 And just as important, when conferences come to Albany, a welcoming environment and friendly faces make them want to return.

"Oh listen, Albany has been so gracious to us," said Michael Watson, the South Georgia Bishop. "The committee, the preparations that have been made are splendid and the Albany community has welcomed the south georgia conference in a wonderful way. We're delighted to be back in Albany."

 And local business owners will be delighted if Albany continues to grow as a conference destination. 

 Posted by brannon.stewart@walb.com

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