July 17--About year ago, Dan Risley, president of the Automotive Service Association took a big risk -- he decided to announce that for the first time ever, the association would hold its annual convention in Detroit.
Not Las Vegas. Not Orlando. Detroit.
Risley made the announcement in Boston two days after Detroit filed for bankruptcy.
"When I said Detroit, their jaws dropped," Risley said. "I told them, don't worry about Detroit's bankruptcy, it has no impact on the show."
The Colleyville, Texas association of car repair professionals normally picks cities that are tourist destinations for its convention. But Risley said the association wanted to shake up the event and decided that holding it in the cradle of the automotive industry made more sense.
Now, with the conference about two weeks away, it is shaping up to be one of the best and strongest conferences the association has ever held.
The convention, which officially runs from July 30 to Aug. 2, is expected to bring between 7,000 and 10,000 attendees to town.
Earlier this year the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau said that metro Detroit will host 12 multi-hotel meetings in 2014, more than double the number hosted in 2013. The revitalized Cobo Center's new atrium and renovated facilities are helping to attract more business.
Risley said officials at Cobo Center and the city of Detroit have bent over backwards to allow the conference to do things other cities rejected. He said the city's fire department deserves credit for being flexible with the association's requests.
Cobo Center will allow the association to set aside 20,000 square feet of space on the convention floor for live painting and repair demonstrations. For the repair demonstrations, cars will be allowed to idle while repair technicians demonstrate how to run diagnostic tests.
Other convention centers said that could only be done outdoors.
The Automotive Service Association's is just one of a number of organizations that have elected to pick Detroit as site for a convention.
Nationally renowned custom car designer Chip Foose as well as members of the Gas Monkey Garage -- a custom car design shop in Texas that has a show on the Discovery Channel.
Also, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have stepped up with bigger sponsorships and are providing speakers.
"This is probably the most diverse and complex conference that we have every prepared," Risley said. "No other cities have allowed us to do the things we are going to do in Detroit."
Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BrentSnavely.