New Orleans will be tested again this week, but not by a hurricane.
An annual National Association of Realtors conference, scheduled Nov. 10-13, is expected to draw about 30,000 attendees to the city — that would make it the largest conference since Hurricane Katrina washed through the region last year. The next-largest meeting since the storm, the American Library Association Conference, drew about 18,000 attendees and 750 exhibitors in June.
The annual NAR Conference and Expo — dubbed “NARdi Gras” — is expected to bring about $35 million to $40 million in revenue for local businesses and the city. The National Association of Realtors has about 1.34 million members.
Besides the throngs of brokers, agents, vendors and other real estate industry professionals who are expected to attend, the guest list includes two former U.S. presidents, a star singer, a famous cookie chef, a vacuum salesman, and two authors who write about keys to business success.
Former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who established the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund to support recovery efforts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, are scheduled to speak during the Realtor conference’s general session.
Other guest speakers during the conference include business authors Marcus Buckingham (“First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Manager’s Do Differently”) and John Maxwell (“Thinking for a Change,” “Leadership 101”), David Oreck of vacuum-selling Oreck Corp., and Mrs. Fields founder Debbi Fields.
Several members of Congress are expected to address Realtors during a legislative and political forum at the conference, and Chuck Todd, editor in chief of The Hotline, a political journal, will talk about the political environment.
Harry Connick Jr. will sing during a celebrity concert, and Connick also serves as honorary chairman for Habitat for Humanity’s Operation Home Delivery program, which seeks to provide support and pre-built homes to help re-establish Gulf Coast communities.
The turnout for the New Orleans conference is expected to be higher than at last year’s Realtor conference, held at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, said association spokesman Steve Cook. About 26,477 people attended the San Francisco conference.
While most of the conference activities are scheduled from Nov. 10-13, there are some activities planned before and after these dates.
For example, about 2,000 attendees will be working on six volunteer rebuilding projects from Nov. 7 to Nov. 14. The projects include a Habitat for Humanity project to build new homes for those who lost their homes to Katrina, a renovation project for elderly residents called “Rebuilding Together,” a debris removal effort in New Orleans’ City Park, a sorting of donated books for the New Orleans Public Library, a library-painting project at De La Salle School, and a sorting of donated food at Second Harvest Food Bank.
Also, Realtor associations are sponsoring the construction of 54 homes in the Gulf Coast area, and these homes will be under construction through 2007, the National Association of Realtors announced earlier this year.
About 150 education sessions are planned during the Realtorsconference. And it’s not all work — on Nov. 11 all attendees are invited to a downtown celebration, “NARdi Gras on Bourbon Street.” According to a description of the event, there will be music and a parade. Participants will receive a free T-shirt.
And in honor of the Mardi Gras tradition in New Orleans, officials for the national Realtor group encouraged each state Realtor association to create original beaded necklaces “with a specially designed medallion to convey something unique and interesting about your state,” and to offer the necklaces for members to wear and trade during the conference.
There are some ticketed, black-tie events planned, too, including an event for Realtors who have received a designation as international property specialists, and an event to recognize the installation of the Realtor group’s 2007 president, Pat Vredevoogd Combs. The trade show is scheduled to open at 5 p.m. Friday to the tune of live music and free beverages.