North Carolina Economic Development Guide

2012

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Case studies during the 2008 convention, drawing about 1,500 people, including celebrities such as Dawson, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Alba and Latino rapper Fat Joe. Norek expects the same in Charlotte, where the organization will employ 10 workers dur- ing convention week and organize the celebrities' travel and hospitality arrange- ments. But he says he doesn't know where organization members are staying yet. "And we are up against a lot more competition in terms of organizations hunting for hotels and space." Sid Smith, executive director of the Charlotte Area Hotel Association, says those issues are being dealt with and every organization will be accommodat- ed. "Right now, it's a lot of hurry up and wait." Before the city even got the convention, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority put together a package outlining its proposals, including 15,000 hotel rooms at a guaranteed rate and a list of hotels that would hold blocks of rooms for the event. "When we got notice in January that we had the convention, the next step was for the DNC to start the local organizing committee and conven- tion committee and designate execu- tives," Smith says. "Then we had to wait for that. Now, the hotels are still holding on to room blocks, but they don't know who will be in those rooms. The DNC will tell us that." It's a complex process that involves issues the hotel association would not have to think about for a more typical conven- tion — things like heavy-duty security and an influx of journalists. The most recent largest event in Charlotte was the 2010 National Rifle Association convention. With about 70,000 attendees, it was about twice the size of what's expected at the Democratic convention. It went smoothly, but the level of security was minimal in comparison. "We know that hotels already have been visited by the Secret Service and layouts have been looked at," Smith says. "Another thing that we are anxious to start planning for is 48 North Carolina Economic Development Guide the impact on our employees. With so much congestion, security, etc., they need to be able to get in and out. So these are the kinds of things that we are waiting to learn more about." The city likely will have to move its main bus station — it's across the street from the arena — to accommodate convention security, though the plan won't be determined until closer to the event. Transit-system officials say they are equipped to make the move, noting that they've done it three times as part of emergency drills. Sid Smith says he has no doubt that everything will come together and that Charlotte will pull off the convention without a hitch. "If we can handle the NRA crowd and accom- modate NASCAR fans, we have what it takes to handle this convention." As Norek and Alfaro walked down College Street on a warm Friday night in June, they hardly looked like your tradi- tional political movers and shakers. They aren't. Norek, 39, is a veteran publicist for Latin alternative-rock bands who also performs with his own Latino-Jewish rap group, Hip-Hop Hoodios. Alfaro, 29, cut his teeth working as a Web designer for the bicultural, English-language Latino cable channel SíTV. Together, the two represent the face of Obama-era politics — young, hip, multicultural and tech-savvy. "I was very impressed with Charlotte. The city size is manageable, the people are friendly and from a diverse range of backgrounds," says Norek, whose June visit was his first trip to North Carolina. "As a nonprofit Latino youth civic-engage- ment organization, it's been eye-opening to see firsthand how much the Latino population has grown here." According to census data, Mecklenburg County's Latino population increased from 44,871 in 2000 to 111,944 in 2010. Another group of young people working outside of the traditional political box is that of 20-something new-media entrepreneurs Matthew Tyndall, Justin

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