The ASA, the NRA, and St. Louis

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a recent piece that included the American Sociological Association:

When more than 5,500 association executives hold their convention next month in St. Louis, it will give tourism officials a rare opportunity to pitch the city for future conventions.

From an economic development perspective, the gathering of the American Society of Association Executives, though modest in size, represents the mother of all conventions — because its attendees have the power to bring thousands more visitors to the city, along with millions in revenue, during future conventions. The visiting executives represent groups as diverse as the National Rifle Association, American Sociological Association and Electrical Apparatus Service Association, to name a few confirmed attendees…

Though St. Louis, like many Midwest cities, struggles to compete with tourism meccas such as Las Vegas, New Orleans or Orlando, conventions nonetheless brought about 350,000 people and about $370 million into the local economy last year. And those figures leave room for growth, according to officials with the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, who plan to field a sales team to woo as many as 1,500 of the associations represented at the conference…

For people living on the coasts, “St. Louis is thrown into the mix of Midwest cities,” Ratcliffe said. “We need a differentiator.”

This raises some questions:

1. Might this be the only time that anyone from the ASA would even be in the same room as someone from the NRA? Or do these association executives interact more often?

1a. It is interesting that this newspaper selected the NRA, ASA, and Electrical Apparatus Service Association as three diverse organizations.

2. Why not hold ASA in St. Louis? And how exactly does the organization select which cities in which it will hold a conference? Here are the factors the ASA says it uses to select its meeting sites:

  • Sites where members are afforded legal protection from discrimination on the basis of age, gender, marital status, national origin, physical ability, race, religion, and sexual orientation
  • Meeting space–flexibility, accessibility, under one roof
  • Date options
  • Hotel contract provisions, particularly room rates
  • Facilities’ recycling, compostable, and sustainability initiatives
  • Extent of unionization at facilities to be used for meeting space and guest rooms
  • Air access/service and local transportation multiplicity
  • Restaurant proximity and diversity
  • General “city feel”
  • City/Convention Bureau assistance

I would be interested to know exactly how some of these are figured out. And is there an official list of cities that could be approved?

3. Here is a tidbit about the ASA and St. Louis:

Stryker joined ASA in 1948 when he was a graduate student. He attended his first annual meeting in 1950 in Denver, CO. This was when ASA meetings had a sit-down dinner for all attendees. In an interview, Stryker said the proudest he has felt of the ASA was when the Association threatened to cancel its annual meeting in St. Louis because the hotel refused to allow African-Americans to register. The hotel backed down, thus effectively desegregating St. Louis.

4. It is interesting that St. Louis is supposedly off the radar of a lot of associations. At one point, St. Louis was poised to become the main city in the Midwest, leading Chicago in population as late as 1870 and was still the 8th largest city in the US in 1950. Is it simply a population issue now or is it something else: is it not interesting enough, does it not have large enough facilities, is travel in and out not easy/cheap enough? I’m sure St. Louis is like many cities that would want to attract more conventions and bring more money into the local economy.

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