Last Thursday, the National Urban League confirmed intentions of holding its 2003 convention in Cincinnati. Twenty-four hours later, those plans came crashing down as the city's police chief suspended the highest ranking African American officer for "dishonesty" in filing a hit-skip report.
"This is a challenge that gives us even more strength to move forward," maintained Lisa Haller, who handled the account for eight years as president of the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau.
At the organization's office on Sixth Street downtown, about a dozen men and women work the phones to promote a product that doesn't exactly sell itself: Cincinnati. Employees call and court and try to bring in the bigwigs. Other workers wine and dine decision makers from other states.
"It's a tough job," admitted sales manager Dennis Tracy.
The Bureau managed to book about $200 million worth of business despite the nationwide negative image. In fact, only four conventions have canceled since the riots of April 2001.