PITTSBURGH — Slowly but surely, large conventions are returning to Pittsburgh, providing a welcome boost to local businesses downtown and beyond.
“Having these events come back is absolutely critical,” said Jerad Bachar, president and CEO of VisitPITTSBURGH.
Last month, the NAFA Institute and Expo brought in roughly 900 attendees. It marked the first large-scale business event since March 2020.
This week, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center hosted Rubber Division’s International Elastomer Conference, which brought in even more attendees.
“This is the largest convention that we’ve hosted in a year and a half, and we’re expecting close to 1500 attendees who are coming here to Pittsburgh,” Bachar said. “They’ve flown in through Pittsburgh International Airport, they’re using our transportation services, they’re eating in our restaurants and they’re staying in over 11 hotels here in the Downtown area, so their business is absolutely impactful.”
Bachar said these conventions can also serve as a way of introducing people to the city of Pittsburgh, and often they return for leisure, or even to invest.
Typically, a large convention generates millions of dollars for Pittsburgh, Bachar said. A study will be completed to find out the exact impact of the International Elastomer Conference.
“This is our fourth time here, so our attendees are familiar with the city,” said Lakisha Miller-Barclay, Rubber Division’s CEO. “They love the different opportunities to eat and get out.”
Miller-Barclay plans to bring the conference back to Pittsburgh in 2023. They held the conference virtually last year, and she said attendees are excited to unite face-to-face once again.
Bachar suspects the city will host more large conventions as more people feel comfortable with in-person gatherings.
“2021 will still be our ramp-up period,” Bachar said. “2022 and 2023 should be really strong years.”