Legislation allowing Missouri cities to compete on a level playing field with those in other states to attract major conventions is one step closer to becoming law in the Show Me state. On May 10, 2016, the Missouri Legislature passed the Meet in Missouri Act, formally House Bill 1698, which now goes to Governor Jay Nixon for signature.
Conventions and tourism are a big deal. In fiscal 2015, their total economic impact on the Missouri economy was $15.9 billion according to a report by the Missouri Department of Tourism, which also noted 297,000 Missourians are directly employed by tourism-related businesses.
The Meet in Missouri Act provides grants to cover up to half of the operational costs of the venue where the convention will be held. Eligible expenses include security, utilities, cleaning, event production, installation and dismantling, rental charges, and construction.
Only major conventions, those where more than half of attendees will travel from out of state and require overnight hotel rooms, qualify for the grant. It has been demonstrated that lodging costs are exceeded by other expenditures, including restaurant meals, while attendees are in town.
Further, many folks in town for the convention will experience Missouri for the first time and are more likely to return in the future and “talk-up” our state to friends and family.
Passage of the Meet in Missouri Act was a 2016 legislative priority for MRA and a focus of our annual Legislative Day in March. Representatives of MRA attended committee hearings and testified in support of the Act on numerous occasions. Vic Allred, a past president of MRA and a director of Visit KC (formerly the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association), was in Jefferson City several times. “Given their economic impact, competition for these conventions is fierce,” Allred noted. “Passage of this legislation allows our cities to compete with Nashville, Tampa, Indianapolis, and other cities for this important business.”
House Bill 1698 was sponsored by Representative Caleb Rowden (R – Columbia). Senator David Sater (R – Cassville) sponsored companion legislation in the Senate.