by Sarah JF Braley | October 12, 2017
Julie Coker Graham, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, has been named as the next co-chair of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, the cross-industry communications and advocacy initiative. Coker Graham will join Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International, taking over from Richard Harper, executive vice president at HelmsBriscoe, who is completing his two-year term. Coker Graham will begin her term on Jan. 1, 2018. 
 
"We are very excited to have Julie be the first CEO of a convention and visitors bureau to co-chair MMBC," said Van Deventer. "Her insights, experience and passion for our industry will be invaluable assets to the coalition as we expand our reach among frontline industry professionals and destination leaders."
 
Coker Graham also is the first woman to co-chair the Coalition, the first woman to lead the Philadelphia CVB and the only African-American woman to lead a destination marketing organization in a top U.S. market.
 
"I am looking forward to serving alongside Paul Van Deventer and the entire MMBC team as we advocate for the meetings and convention industry," said Coker Graham. "You cannot deny the value of face-to-face meetings -- they are the foundation for generating positive results across all industries while also creating economic benefits for local communities across the country."
 
Harper has co-led MMBC since 2016 and has been an ardent supporter of the coalition since its inception. According to the MMBC, during Harper's term, the coalition has highlighted the role of face-to-face in an election year through its Worth Meeting About campaign; illustrated the stories of third-party validators and C-suite executives through its Business Leader video series; rallied the industry for the second annual Global Meetings Industry Day, and expanded engagement with grassroots industry professionals through the MMBC Ambassador network.
 
"I want to thank Richard for his passion and dedication to MMBC since its inception. His contributions over the last two years as co-chair have helped grow the coalition's reach and impact," said Van Deventer.