by Hunter R. Slaton | April 01, 2009

NPLH openerDisneyland in Anaheim, Calif., was the place to be two years ago for the sales and dealer conference held by office furniture manufacturer Steelcase. Most recently, however, the company decided to hold the event in Grand Rapids, Mich. -- its home town.
"Buying local and staying local has been huge lately," says Amy Young, a Grand Rapids-based meeting planner whose 10-year-old company, Grand Connection, organized the Steelcase conference as well as local meetings for two other big corporations.

The decision to meet locally can present challenges for planners used to going to an exciting new location every year. However, as Young says, "I think if the meeting is well organized and well put together, any destination can be fantastic."

Tracking the trendKeeping more corporate meetings local is a growing trend across North America, as corporations respond to the imperatives of the recession as well as increased scrutiny of the bottom line. And research conducted last fall by Worktopia, a White Plains, N.Y.-based company that provides booking tools and solutions for small meetings, shows more than just scrutiny in play. In late October, Worktopia surveyed 60 people involved in planning meetings and found that 71 percent had their meeting budgets cut for 2009.

John Arenas, Worktopia's chairman and CEO, says the survey "revealed something we've been subscribing to anecdotally: When there is pressure on budgets, meetings tend to become more regional and local." Indeed, 14 percent of Worktopia's survey respondents said they would move to local meetings as a way to reduce costs.

M&C's own research supports this trend: In a survey of 152 meeting planners published last September, 44 percent of respondents said they expected to hold more meetings near headquarters in 2009.

Staying closeConnie Tinney, CMP, national director of event management for the Toronto-based Canadian affiliate of KPMG International, a company that provides tax audit and advisory services, is one planner who has had to adjust to local meetings.

Tinney plans national events, including conferences, executive forums and more. Since last Octo-ber, she has been seriously considering local meetings due to mandated, top-down directives from KPMG leadership as well as internal recommendations from her team.

In November and December, Tinney and her colleagues researched holding some company meetings locally. Of course, money could be saved on airfare, as the Canadian arm of KPMG is based in Toronto and fewer people would have to fly in. Also, less money would be spent on ground transportation, since those who live and work in the city have their own vehicles.

Happily, Tinney also discovered that the Toronto hotels were eager to work with her on planning a local meeting.