From watermelons to Mensa, all things represented in associations

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The upcoming American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) convention in Columbus features some unusual groups

Representatives from the American Watermelon Association are coming to town this week.

But sorry, Columbus, they probably won’t be back.

For one thing, of the association’s 800 members, none are from Ohio. The Buckeye State is not much of a watermelon producer, according to executive director Bob Morrissey.

The other reason the group likely won’t hold its annual meetings here, though, is a matter of latitude.

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“Our national convention is always held in mid-February, so the weather in the northern states is risky at best for us,” said Morrissey, whose group is headquartered in Florida.

“Unfortunately, Columbus is not on our radar, and most likely will not be. Sorry.”

Columbus tourism executives are giddy about the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) convention that opens Saturday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Nearly 5,000 representatives from around the country will be here, and the hope is that some of them will be impressed with the city enough to bring their group’s annual meetings here in the future.

So while the watermelon farmers are a no-go, there are plenty of potential future visitors to court on an eclectic list of associations that ranges from A (A Great Meeting Inc.) to Z (Zonta International).

Perhaps Columbus can land the annual meeting of the Chest Wall Injury Society, or the African Association of Agricultural Economists, or the Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals.

The best name on the list might be Velvet Chainsaw. (It’s a consulting firm, not a 1970s rock band.)

Founder Dave Lutz said the name comes from a client who was impressed with Lutz’s tough-but-smooth negotiating skills and said he was like a velvet chainsaw.

Lutz is one of many ASAE attendees who are in Columbus to drum up business rather than be potentially wooed to bring meetings here.

In fact, dozens of tourism bureaus from around the country will be on hand, directly competing with Columbus for business as they set up booths touting their cities or hotels.

One of those is Discover Dunwoody. Alphabetically on the list of attendees, the group is positioned near Discover The Palm Beaches and Discover Puerto Rico.

Next to tropical beaches, what does Dunwoody have to offer? (It’s a city of about 50,000 located 20 miles north of Atlanta, by the way).

“We host the nation’s largest monthly car show, called ‘Caffeine and Octane,'” said Steven Schumacher, the group’s director of sales. “There are up to 500 cars there.”

Schumacher said his main job is to drum up meeting and convention business for the city’s hotels.

There are many associations, though, that could potentially bring their future annual meetings to Columbus.

One of those is American Mensa, the social organization for people who score in at least the 98th percentile on selected IQ tests (an IQ of 130 to 132 typically qualifies).

Trevor Mitchell, the group’s executive director, was enthusiastic when told that in 2016, Columbus won the U.S. Department of Transportation’s first-ever Smart City Challenge.

Mitchell said American Mensa has about 50,000 members, of which 1,743 live in Ohio and 111 in Columbus.

“If we do come to Columbus, we would tag onto that (smart city designation),” Mitchell said. “We would probably brand it as ‘the smartest people are choosing to go to a smart city.’ That would be a fun alignment.”

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