Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Democratic National Convention 2012 Notebook: A tiny business strikes a giant deal

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2011 at 9:16 AM


For one small local business — actually, a business of one — the Democratic National Convention’s vendor directory worked as advertised. “It will be my biggest contract,” said Karen Lawrence, a Charlotte-based meeting and planning designer, whose firm, It’s My Affair, will partner with two Atlanta-based firms on housing services for the 2012 convention in Charlotte.

On Monday, the Democratic National Convention Committee and the Committee for Charlotte in 2012 announced that the team of EventSphere, Akintayo Management Group and It’s My Affair will serve as the convention's housing services vendor.

Lawrence has been in business for more than nine years, she told me, with clients such as Bank of America, Duke Energy and the Diversity Council of the Carolinas. She registered at www.charlottein2012.com when the convention and vendor directory were announced.

The DNCC has said proposals would be evaluated based on experience, reliability, relationships and resources in the region, with attention to businesses owned by women, minorities and people with disabilities.

Lawrence's company and the two Atlanta firms bid as a unit. Tina Akintayo said the priority was “to put together the right team to be able to get the job done.” Akintayo's two-person business, like Lawrence’s, is minority and female-owned. Akintayo said It’s My Affair stood out because of the company's specific skills and experience in event and on-site management and its current client base. Todd Lambert, president and CEO of EventSphere, which has a staff of 12, described his role as “team leader,” making sure the process is successful. Both Akintayo and EventSphere worked on housing for the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver.

According to the DNCC — which has responsibility for housing about 6,000 convention delegates, as well as some elected officials, media, security and other staff and guests — the housing services vendor will work with the convention’s housing department to manage hotel room blocks for convention week. Among the responsibilities: providing support teams (including call centers, website reservation services and fax machines), managing housing inventory and managing deposits and refunds. Work has already begun, and Lambert said the team already had an all-hotel meeting.

The DNCC said payment for the work is commission-based. The group will get 10 percent of the cost of each room. (The hotels factored in that amount when they negotiated their room rates with the DNCC.) The total value of the contract, estimated to be at least $1 million, will be determined by how many rooms are booked.

It’s the fourth contract the DNCC and the Committee for Charlotte in 2012 have awarded.

Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Root, NPR, Creative Loafing and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her “Keeping It Positive” segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 on TV’s Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.

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