May 31, 2023

91st Annual Event Brought Top City Leaders to Greater Columbus Convention Center

The big event at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in early June wasn’t the city’s largest convention ever, not by a long shot, but it was among the highest-profile gatherings the building has seen. The 91st U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting brought leaders of the largest U.S. cities to town.

The conference, open to the mayors of cities of 30,000 or more people, puts the nation’s top urban leaders in one place to spotlight the policy priorities affecting the largest group of Americans. Speakers at the event tend to be high-profile, usually with substantial participation of the current presidential administration. “It’s a gathering of very influential people,” says Experience Columbus President and CEO Brian Ross.

On June 2, at a roundtable discussion on countering antisemitism, delegates heard from First Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, who presented a bipartisan plan launched by the Biden-Harris administration the week before. The plan was developed as party of the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.

The event brings invaluable exposure for Columbus as a dynamic community and travel destination, Ross says. “We’ve found out over the years, with all types of visitors, that many have heard of us, but they don’t fully understand or appreciate everything we have going on until they’re here and they see it.”

Winning the convention for Columbus was a long-held goal of Experience Columbus and Mayor Andrew J. Ginther. It came in a special year for the mayor, as he was installed as vice president of the group during this year’s event, positioning him to become president at the 2024 meeting.

“We were thrilled to host the U.S. Conference of Mayors for the first time here in Columbus,” Mayor Ginther said. “We worked with Experience Columbus and the rest of the community to plan special events that show off our city’s incredible art scene and world-class attractions.”

The event drew about 1,200 attendees, more than 200 of whom are mayors. The nature of the guests meant a lot of those folks wore dark suits and earpieces — “There’s a lot of security with this organization,” Ross said. The event brought bookings of about 3,400 hotel room nights over four nights and planners expected visitors to spend at least $1.5 million.

Host cities for the mayors’ event traditionally are in charge of providing evening entertainment. The lineup in Columbus included an opening-night reception at the Columbus Museum of Art and a Saturday night private performance at KEMBA Live! concert venue by Grammy-winning artist Jon Batiste. Sunday, the outgoing and incoming U.S. Conference of Mayors presidents were honored at a “Gavel to Gavel” ceremony and guests enjoyed networking and entertainment at the Center of Science and Industry.

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