In May, Christopher Ilitch, a powerful
Detroit businessman and chairman of the Detroit Metro Convention
and Visitors Bureau, announced a two-year initiative called “Let’s
Meet in the D,” which implores local companies to relocate at least
one of their out-of-town meetings back to the Detroit area.
“It’s so simple, but it has really
caught on and is building momentum,” said Larry Alexander, the
CVB’s president and CEO.
As of press time, 18 companies had
joined the cause, including Bank of America, the Ford Motor Co.,
General Motors, Northwest Airlines and Verizon Wireless. The
relocated events range from small board meetings to major
conferences, according to Alexander.
Ilitch, who oversees the operations of
several family owned businesses, including Little Caesars Pizza,
took the lead by booking next spring’s Little Caesars’ worldwide
conference in Detroit. That meeting should draw 1,500 attendees and
generate $1.4 million in direct spending.
Alexander doesn’t know how much
business the program will net for Detroit, but he thinks it will
give the city a major boost in economically hard times. He also
hopes the campaign will reintroduce meeting planners to the local
hospitality product -- including several new hotels, expanded
casinos, renovated cultural venues and a revamped airport -- and
keep planners coming back.
“We want corporate CEOs and meeting
planners to think first about metropolitan Detroit,” Alexander
The Ilitch family has invested more
than $350 million in the city of Detroit over the past three
decades and operates the Fox Theatre as well as several sports
venues and arenas.