Baltimore’s hosting of the National Urban League’s annual conference will allow for long-term community development, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday.
“There will be a lot of activity in the local economy,” Rawlings-Blake said during an opening press conference with Urban League officials at the Convention Center. “It’s the right time to be in Baltimore. The right partners are here.”
More than 10,000 people from across the country are expected to attend the conference, which runs through Saturday, generating almost $5 million for the local economy. Attendees have booked nearly 6,000 hotel rooms.
“The tourism aspect is the least of [the impact],” she said. “It’s more than a visit.”
J. Howard Henderson, president and CEO of the Baltimore Urban League, said he was “grateful” to host the conference and that it was the appropriate time to talk about solutions for Baltimore and cities across the country.
The theme for this year’s conference is “Saving Our Cities,” with an emphasis on rebuilding urban centers through economic development and policies such as raising the minimum wage, according to Marc Morial, the Urban League’s CEO and president.
“We want to re-engergize, educate and activate” the community, he said.
Morial also highlighted the nonprofit’s “Main Street Marshall Plan,” a set of proposals to rebuild infrastructure, confront inequities in public education and empower urban minority communities and businesses.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine will address the conference Thursday, his first campaign event without Hillary Clinton. The Urban League traditionally invites candidates from the two major political parties and historically, most parties send the candidate or a representative, Morial said. But the campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump declined the invitation.
Morial admitted that he “dodged the question” when asked about his feelings on the Trump campaign’s decision.
“I’m sure there are people outside this room who could answer your question,” he said with a laugh.
Other scheduled speakers include Rawlings-Blake; Maryland’s Democratic senators, Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin; U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.; Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood; Kurt Schmoke, president of the University of Baltimore; and attorneys William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr. and Benjamin Crump, who represent the families of Freddie Gray and Trayvon Martin, respectively.
New this year is Saturday’s “Community Day,” which will provide activities for families including a back-to-school event that will give out free backpacks, school supplies and haircuts. The conference will also host a career fair and summits for entrepreneurs and young professionals.