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  • Charlotte is moving forward with plans to renovate and add new meeting space to the city’s convention center. Work begins in 2019.
  • The $110 million project includes new pre-function space and 26,000 sf of meeting space. A new skyway will connect to the Westin hotel.
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  • British Tourism & Travel brand.
  • Hong Kong’s exhibition industry urged support for an expansion of the city’s convention center. The HKECIA said it will meet future demand.
  • The proposal would raze three buildings near the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and add about 23,000 sm of connected space.

Texas Devastation Grows, but Few Trade Shows Impacted So Far

Sandi Cain
, News Editor
September 1, 2017
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Chicago — Twelve years after the horror of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas and western Louisiana, leaving 51.88 inches of water in its wake so far — more than any single storm in the continental U.S.

The resultant flooding turned Houston into a U.S. version of Venice, Italy, with no end in sight. Flooding displaced thousands of people, many of whom escaped by private watercraft operated by residents as well as professionally trained first responders. 

Employees and volunteers at convention centers throughout the area are providing crucial services to the displaced residents. Evacuation centers include the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRBCC) in downtown Houston and NRG Stadium, which took in 10,000 evacuees to relieve overflow at the GRBCC. Ft. Worth opened three shelters to house 1,000 people. The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas was ready to take in evacuees, but as of late Aug. 30, only about 350 had showed up there. “The Convention Center is designed to typically host several events simultaneously; we are treating the sheltering operation as an event,” said Executive Director Ron King.

Holly Clapham, Chief Marketing Officer for the GRBCC, said evacuee numbers were down to 8,000 on Aug. 30 as some people were relocated or found other accommodations. She said the center is set up with hospital capabilities, food service and separate areas for pets and people with kids. “A staff of just six people set all of this up,” she said, giving much of the credit to COO Luther Villagomez for the effort.

Clapham noted that on Wednesday, people waited outside the GRBCC for up to three hours to make donations. The same was true at NRG Park, she said.

August is typically a slow convention/trade show month, and few large shows were scheduled before mid-September. Still, a few postponed or cancelled ahead of the storm.

The Turbomachinery and Pump Symposia, set to begin in Houston on Sept. 12, was postponed just ahead of the hurricane to early December. High Caliber Gun & Knife Show cancelled one Houston event and postponed another upcoming show in Corpus Christi, but its mid-September event scheduled for the GRBCC was still set to go on as of Aug. 30.

No events have been postponed or cancelled at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, including the late-September ASIS Annual Seminar and Exhibits for police, fire, security and emergency services, according to Shannon Burch, Senior Director of Events & Business Development for ASIS.

Other September shows include the American Academy of Family Medicine at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center in San Antonio. According to the facility’s Director, Michael Sawaya, it is not an evacuation center. As of Aug. 30, according to its website, the AAFP had no plans to reschedule. The site also has a donation link for storm victim relief.

Airports Council International is scheduled for mid-September in Ft. Worth, and The Franchise Expo is coming to Austin in late September. Neither of those cities experienced significant flooding, and even as both assist with storm response and evacuees, the shows are expected to go on. 

The Houston Hobby Airport and the Bush Intercontinental Airport both restarted limited service late Wednesday. The airports said only those with tickets for confirmed, scheduled flights should come to the airport due to flooded roads that limit airport access. 

Storm statistics flow as fast and furiously as the water that filled Houston — and are just as mind-boggling. As of Aug. 30, up to 300,000 residents were housed in more than 230 shelters, and more than 286,500 residents had no power. Roughly 450,000 people are expected to register for disaster aid, and 1,800 hotels and motels are operating under transitional shelter assistance from FEMA. In all, 12,400 employees from 17 government agencies are on site. On Aug. 31, as flooding expanded to Beaumont and Port Arthur, the total estimate for overall damage hovered around $75 billion.

Many organizations have created relief funds, including the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and PCMA Education Foundation, which launched its Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund on Aug. 30 to provide assistance to those in the meetings and events industry who have been impacted by the storm. On day one, the fund raised $4,925 of its $25,000 goal. U.S. residents can text “HELPTX” to 41444 and enter a donation amount and name to get a link to the payment site. Those who live outside the U.S. should visit www.foundation.pcma.org for donation instructions.

In announcing the fund, Deborah Sexton, President and CEO of PCMA, said, “I invite everyone in the business events community to help our colleagues who are struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.”

Reach Ron King at (214) 939-2755 or ron.king@dallascityhall.com; Holly Clapham at (713) 614-0366 or grbinfo@houstonfirst.com; Michael Sawaya at (210) 207-8500 or Michael.Sawaya@sanantonio.gov

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