A message from Craig Beasley regarding the Annual Meeting and Hurricane Harvey concerns
The SEG 2017 Houston Annual Meeting is a go!
I’ve recently heard rumors from concerned exhibitors that the SEG Annual Meeting might end up being cancelled, even though the SEG Board announced last week the intention to move forward with the meeting in Houston. Let me reassure you that Houston is indeed open for business:
- Damage is localized and does not affect downtown Houston, none of the SEG host hotels were affected.
- Flood victims seeking refuge at the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB) will be relocated prior to the Annual Meeting, which has been the plan all along regardless of our decision to go forward with the meeting.
The news reports naturally show you the worst of the event, over and over, so it is easy to envision the entire city being devastated (like New Orleans was with Katrina), so my wife and I were sort of shocked on Saturday when we returned from being out of the country and didn't see any evidence of flooding -- from the airport, through downtown, etc., until we were nearly at our house and then just saw a couple of shops that had taken in water. But, just to the west of us is where the disaster really hit, so there is tremendous damage but not where it would affect our convention. It is very localized and, most importantly, this was not a wind event, so power was not really interrupted like you would find when trees and limbs are crashing down all over the place. Even traffic is back to normal now that most of the roads that were closed are open.
I learned SEG was in the process of conducting due diligence (as they must) to decide between go or no go. They were sending someone to evaluate the situation, but being here, and as General Chair, I thought I should do some investigation so I went downtown on Sunday afternoon (Sept. 3). Honestly, we could have had the meeting then except for a few issues, which I will relate later. The point is that the downtown area and outwards did not flood. No damage anywhere. Hotels were open for business, people walking around, having lunch, etc. I checked and you could book a room at the Hilton that night. Some hotels were not taking new guests at that point because they were not sure about things like food supplies as the main freeways were just reopening. At this point, there was absolutely no issue. Airport, public transport, taxis, Uber, rental cars, etc. were all up and running; many taxis in front of the Hilton were just waiting for passengers. Theaters, museums, restaurants, sporting events, etc. were operating.
So, the only issue I could see was that they were using the George R. Brown Convention Center as a temporary relief center. By Sunday (Sept. 3) I was told by the Hilton that the number of people there had gone from about 8,000 (maybe 10,000) down to around 1,000 people and that the plan was to move all operations to another convention location (NRG, which is near the Astrodome).
Our findings indicated that people would be successfully relocated prior to the meeting. People are not being displaced for the Annual Meeting, rather this was already their plan. SEG pressed very hard on this point and even if transition to NRG is not fully completed (which GRB officials insist it will be) they offered a contingency plan that would physically separate any remaining operations from our convention space. We often share a convention center with other events, but in this case they offered to actually wall off the two spaces as an extra measure of assurance that our meeting would not be affected. The SEG Board evaluated all of this information and voted unanimously to go ahead.
As mentioned earlier, traffic is now back to normal but you can check out the situation in real time at http://traffic.houstontranstar.org/layers/layers_ve.aspx to see the status of Houston traffic and problem areas.
Finally, some expressed the feeling that it was a little unseemly to be enjoying a convention while others nearby are suffering, but then the opposing view is that it would be a great vote of confidence and an economic boost to the community to go ahead. Those who had suffered Katrina pointed out how great it was for them to have the SEG in New Orleans as they were able to have support from their professional community at the meeting. The organizing committee stressed to the SEG Board that it would be a great disservice to the members and exhibitors to cancel, especially when there is no reason to do so.
I hope this gives you and others who may be wondering about attending some confidence that you should go ahead. My thoughts are with all who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
SEG Houston 2017 General Chair