Sunday, February 10, 2002

$87,000 in incentives helps keep Baptists

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Progressive National Baptist Convention will receive at least $87,000 worth of concessions to hold its national conference in Cincinnati this August.

        Organization officials announced Thursday that, despite a call to boycott the city until it makes certain improvements in race issues, the convention will go on as scheduled, provided certain conditions are met. They did not disclose financial terms.

        The convention, expected to bring 8,000 to 15,000 people here Aug. 5-8, is the largest conference booked this year.

        Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau spokesman Julie Harrison confirmed an "incentive package.” She emphasized that only bureau dollars, not public funds, are involved.

        The Progressive Baptists will receive at least $50,000 from the bureau to offset some part of the cost of convention-center space. In addition, the convention will get $3 off per room, per night for a total of 12,300 room nights.

        The total amount of the package, she said, could increase depending on the number of attendees.

        “We're really talking minuscule numbers, in terms of the dollars we are spending versus the nearly $13 million a convention of this size will bring into the city,” Ms. Harrison said. “It's money well spent.”

        She declined to say whether the threat of a boycott influenced the amount of the package, saying only that such incentive packages are standard in the industry.

        Event organizers said Thursday they had decided against honoring a request by the Cincinnati Black United Front to cancel the event. Their announcement followed actor-comedian Bill Cosby's cancellation of two performances at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.

        Officials at the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati said they hope Mr. Cosby still plans to be the keynote speaker at their Character Awards Banquet on Oct. 3.

        “We have not heard "no' from Mr. Cosby since this happened,” said Jackie Mathews, a YMCA spokeswoman, “but we are concerned.”


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