A decision five years ago to showcase Greater Cincinnati for Rotary leaders from across the country has become a stepping stone toward COVID recovery for local businesses.
The Rotary Club of Cincinnati is the 2021 host for the national Rotary Large Club Conference, which brings together executive directors and presidents elect from large Rotary clubs.
The Oct. 13-16 conference will plug every dime of its budget directly into the Greater Cincinnati economy, said Linda Muth, executive director of the Rotary Club of Cincinnati. The 115 participants staying in Cincinnati from across the country will amplify the impact and could create long-term ripples through word-of-mouth and return visits for sports events, concerts, meetings and vacations, said Muth.
The last time Cincinnati hosted the Rotary Large Club Conference was 1960. “You have to plan five years in advance to host this conference,” said Muth, of Union Township.
“When we signed on to host for this year, we didn’t know how important it would be to bring conference business back to the city as we deal with pandemic recovery,” Muth said.”
The conference is headquartered in the historic Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Hotel in downtown Cincinnati. The Rotary Club chartered a streetcar to tour the city. Events are scheduled in the American Sign Museum and the Sam Adams Tap Room. The event is bringing business to local caterers, printers and local restaurants, said Muth.
Bob Louis, Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Director of Sales and Marketing, said the return of conferences and conventions is critical to the pandemic-impacted tourism business.
“For more than a year, we lost all of our conventions and groups,” said Louis.
Restrictions on travel and requirements for distancing affected everything from work environments to restaurants, schools and entertainment, he said. “Everything kept domino-ing. Our hotel occupancy went from 80 or 90 percent to 5 percent,” Louis said.
The Rotary conference is among several meetings and conferences returning to the region this fall and energizing local businesses, said Louis. He said recent conferences included an academic advisory association bringing in 1300 people, a human services association that filled rooms in several local hotels and a religious organization hosting 300.
“Events like this are a critical component for us,” said Louis. “They’re a job saver.”
The Rotary conference may not be the city’s largest conference, but it reflects a continuum of support Rotary has shown for Cincinnati businesses throughout the pandemic, said Louis.
The Rotary Club of Cincinnati typically holds luncheon meetings every Thursday at the hotel. Pandemic restrictions briefly stopped the lunches, but the meetings went on as virtual ZOOM events conducted from the hotel. The Thursday lunch meetings resumed with distancing protocols months ago and Rotary has added member gatherings at local restaurants and businesses.
“The Rotary has been a fantastic partner,” Louis said.
“We had to furlough all of our service team because of the pandemic. The Rotary team raised donations to help their host servers during the layoffs. It was so emotionally heartfelt – our staff was overwhelmed.”
Throughout the highly regulated days of the pandemic, Rotary Club of Cincinnati teams made adjustments to meet volunteer commitments to schools, children’s programs and community projects. The Rotary Club also funded and implemented a six-week program to buy daily meals from more than 30 local restaurants and deliver them to essential workers – generating business for restaurants as it met personal needs.
Large Rotary clubs have more than 200 members, which allows them to have a significant impact, said Muth. At the Large Club Conference, Rotary leaders exchange ideas, challenges and approaches to meeting community needs.
The Rotary Large Club Conference includes local experts on executive leadership, cyber security, membership strategies, environmental support and communication as well as Keynote speaker Commander Kirk Lippold, USN (Ret.) who was the Commanding Officer of the USS Cole when it came under a terrorist attack by al Qaeda in 2000.
Susan Wilkinson of Anderson Township is chair of the Rotary’s Large Club Conference and has been working with Muth to ensure the conference benefits local businesses as well as inspires fellow Rotary leaders from across the country to make nimble responses to community needs.
“The Rotary Club is all about service. This conference is a unique opportunity for the people who will be leading these large Rotary clubs next year,” said Wilkinson. “
“Linda Muth is a good example of a strong, innovative executive director. She has boundless energy and she is full of ideas.”
The Rotary Club of Cincinnati was the region’s first Rotary club, founded in 1910 as a service and networking organization for business and community leaders. For information, contact Rotary office at [email protected].