How Sioux City Lured the Iowa ABI Conference Back

By Marc Boisclair, November 9, 2016

Before Iowa Association of Business and Industry booked Sioux City, Iowa, for its 2006 annual conference, the event was a relatively small affair that, for years, had been held in the same destination: Okoboji, Iowa’s scenic “Great Lakes” region. That event marked a milestone for IABI, which began rotating site selection to better support its statewide membership. It also offered hope for Sioux City, a Missouri River port with limited guest rooms, a tired convention center and a downtown few frequented after dark.

What no one expected was that after IABI left town that year, it would take a full decade for Iowa’s largest business organization to return. This summer, however, IABI did exactly that, discovering a reinvigorated Sioux City led by an enthusiastic host team. The improvements made by both the city and its hospitality environment proved critical in swaying ABI’s decision-makers.

“We tried to accommodate them on all the details and levels of service they were expecting,” says Lillyan Rodriguez, sales manager for Sioux City Convention Center, which earlier this year spent $850,000 on upgrades (carpeting, sound and lighting, ceilings, air walls and Wi-Fi). IABI’s planners insisted on tasty, creative food, and Rodriguez’s team accommodated, both during workday luncheons and for post-meeting play, when they closed off downtown’s Fourth Street for a catered dinner.

Helping as well was a broader series of hospitality and quality-of-life upgrades within Sioux City’s core, infusing downtown with a younger, livelier vibe while upping the numbers on its previously anemic guest room stock. Indeed, IABI 2016 sold out the area’s three major hotels, two of which—downtown’s Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City—didn’t exist during their prior visit.

“The Hard Rock was an outstanding location and lots of fun,” says Kathy Anderson, IABI’s vice president of member development and programs, who also cited the Orpheum as “a gorgeous, historic theater” that served as perfectly as IABI’s keynote venue.

The end result, says Rodriguez, was a wonderful experience for more than 400 Iowa business leaders that had “a really good economic impact” on Sioux City.  

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