Conference skips Florida, holds event in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – The National Organization of Black County Officials (NOBCO) skipped Florida for its 37th Annual Economic Development Conference and decided instead to come to North Carolina.

Milli Moto, NOBCO’s CEO and executive director, said the organization had no other choice but to deny Florida of its business.

“In light of the ban on books, and the nationwide news behind erasing our Black history, we decided to pull it and move it to a county where we were welcomed,” Moto said.

Charlotte was to get the conference in 2024 but moved things up to accommodate the need to find a host city immediately. About 300 people registered for the conference. The gathering attracted well-known speakers such as Attorney Ben Crump, actor and politician Hill Harper and leaders in the business and entertainment industries.

When it came to financing the conference, Moto said things shifted when participants thought the conference was staying in Florida. NOBCO’s CEO said things shifted again when participants found out the conference was not taking place in Florida.

“When it comes to attendance, money and the money we gained from registration – I would like to say that we actually gained more participation, more sponsorship support because people were pulling out knowing that we were going to stay in Florida,” Moto said. “So, once we made that decision to move the conference, we saw an influx of love and support, and everyone came to our aid.”

WBTV did ask NOBCO leadership about workers in Florida who depend on tourism dollars to survive.

“I’m sorry at this point in time,” NOBCO co-chair Derek Albert said. “I appreciate you. I hope that your job continues to move onward and upward; however, there are certain things we have to stand for.”

The National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued a formal travel advisory for Florida. In the statement, NAACP accuses Florida of devaluing and marginalizing the contributions of and challenges African Americans have faced. NOBCO wanted the conference not to center on what’s going on in Florida but rather focus on helping communities succeed.

“The purpose of NOBCO is to supply resources, best practices to all of our Black county elected officials,” Moto said. “This is a time for us and our changemakers nationwide to come together and talk about what our community needs for our people, and they go back into the community and make it happen.”

Workshops ranged from voter apathy in the Black community, affordable housing and economic development, to financial wellness and retirement readiness.

Mecklenburg County Commission Chair George Dunlap believes having Black leadership is important. He says it can open doors for those seeking a chance at economic mobility.

“We are in a position to knock down the wall,” Dunlap said. “Eliminate those barriers so that people who haven’t historically had an opportunity will then begin to have an opportunity.”

Mecklenburg County has several Black leaders. The county has a Black county commission chair, a Black district attorney, a Black school superintendent, a Black sheriff, a Black mayor and a Black police chief.

Leaders say they often hear from voters that their quality of life is not improving or improving fast enough for them.

“If they are not moving as fast as you want,” just be patient and be of good courage,” Albert said. “And hold your leaders accountable. And if they don’t want to rock the boat, then tell them the next election; you’ll rock the boat for them.”

The conference also recognized some great local leaders at its Awards Luncheon.

NOBCO honored Dr. Bertha Maxwell Roddey. She made history by becoming the first African-American principal selected to be in charge of a predominately white school in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system.

Roddey also co-founded the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture. James Ferguson was also honored for his work in civil rights and social justice efforts. He has been recognized as one of the nation’s top 10 litigators by the National Law Journal. Bishop George Edward Battle, Jr. was also honored for his work in education and his career in the A.M.E. Zion Church.

Battle is also known for being the founder of the Greater Enrichment Program. It is an after-school program that benefits at-risk students in Charlotte.

Organizers were pleased with the conference and have no regrets about not going to Florida.

WBTV did reach out to Visit Florida about NOBCO leaving the state to hold its annual conference. There has been no response.

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