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National Urban League to hold 2015 conference in Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale edged out nine other cities to host the National Urban League’s 2015 conference, the organization announced Friday at its Broward County headquarters.

“There were some strong cities and affiliates,” said Rhonda Spears Bell, the senior vice president for the National Urban League. “But everything seemed to line up for Fort Lauderdale.”

The convention, which includes college and job fairs, will be held the last week of July 2015 at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort and Spa.

Organizers estimate the four-day event will draw as many as 5,000 visitors and the economic impact could be worth $8 million, said Nicki Grossman, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. They expect up to an additional 4,000 attendees from South Florida to come as well.

Those visitors will give Broward County a chance to make an impression and lure visitors back, Grossman said.

“They’re coming to the National Urban League, but they are also going to smell us; and feel us and enjoy the hospitality that they are going to get from this community,” Grossman said.

In the past, the national conference has attracted well-known guests such as President Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. President Barack Obama spoke at last year’s convention in New Orleans.

Bidding for the conference began two years ago.

Bell did not say who Fort Lauderdale’s competitors were, only that “there was healthy competition.”

This year’s conference will be held in Philadelphia, and the 2014 conference will be in Cincinnati.

Fort Lauderdale already hosts an annual mid-winter conference for the organization.

“It’s time to bring the big game to the city,” Bell said.

Political leaders from Broward County vowed to aid the organization leading up to the event.

“The city will be prepared and will work hard hand it hand with the Urban League of Broward County,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler. “Whatever we can do to make the convention a success, we will do.”

Other elected officials touted the diverse population in the county as another draw.

“Our diversity is what makes us such a vibrant, sensational county,” said Broward County Mayor Kristin Jacobs. “It’s so fitting that the Urban League chose Broward County and the city of Fort Lauderdale for this conference.”

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