National Society of Black Engineers pull convention from Florida over new state laws

AORN, Grace Hopper Celebration also pulled conventions

ORLANDO, Fla. – Some groups looking to hold events in Central Florida said they are backing out, and are citing the recent legislation and the overall atmosphere in the state.

Avery Layne is on the executive board for the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). He said they’ve chosen to relocate their 50th annual convention set for 2024 from Orlando to Atlanta based on recent legislation in Florida and the political climate.

“We have decided to move the convention out of Florida,” said Layne, the national chairperson for NSBE. “We were thinking about if that’s the type of background that we really want for this 50th celebration that we’re having.”

They said their convention was originally set to be in Orlando in 2021, but it had to be shifted to next year because of the pandemic.

“We had already begun the process of investing into Orlando and in Florida. We are about 1.2 million dollars in investment,” said Janeen Uzzell, the CEO of NSBE.

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They told News 6 they’re working to reclaim that investment, but though it was a tough decision to choose to relocate from Orlando, it was a necessary move.

“The board felt that this was still the right decision to make,” Uzzell said.

Russell Drake is an engineer in Central Florida and a national member of NSBE. He said he agrees with the decision to move their convention.

“NSBE is an organization that’s starting to increase black in the engineer field across the board and right now you have things that are threatening us,” Drake said.

Though there are still tourists and different organizations making their way to Orlando and across Central Florida for sporting events, conventions and vacation, the Orange County convention center told News 6 these three organizations have canceled their upcoming conventions at the center. They are:

  • 2024 Grace Hopper Celebration
  • 2027 AORN (Association of perioperative Registered Nurses) Global Surgical Conference & Expo
  • 2024 National Society of Black Engineers

The Orange County Convention Center told News 6 one of those organizations that canceled its convention for next year at the convention center is still continuing with their convention this year in Orlando.

Executive Director Mark Tester News 6 released this statement regarding these cancellations.

“The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) prioritizes the safety and comfortability of our employees, attendees and surrounding Orange County communities. We appreciate our partnerships within the convention and tradeshow industry and look forward to the continued growth of business at The Center of Hospitality.”

Executive Director Mark Tester

Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond said the tourism tax has decreased over the past few months.

“I don’t like hearing about conventions not coming here and it’s a hit to the economy when that happens,” said Phil Diamond. “The more conferences that don’t come here the worst it’ll be.”

A spokesperson for Visit Orlando released the following statement to News 6 :

“We have continued to receive inquiries and concerned calls from groups and travelers.

We’ve been connecting with each client individually to discuss their concerns and educating them on both our welcoming and inclusive destination and the specific legislation.

According to our research, June is anticipated to bring more than 300,000 in citywide attendance for the area. And from June to August, advance hotel booking pace for the group segment is ahead of the same time last year by 15%.”

Visit Orlando

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About the Author:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.