When associations choose a destination for their annual conference, many factors come into play. There are some obvious “hygiene” ones: great transport and communications infrastructure, the fluid facilitation of digital and physical connectivity throughout the event; economic dynamism, and political stability, just to name a few. But there are also some differentiators that will make cities stand out: easy access to top speakers, local pools of excellence in the sector the association advocates for, potential reach of additional delegates and, in fine, a deep understanding of the values the organization stands for.
When Untec, the Union of Construction Economists, chose Angers for their annual conference, it was precisely because the destination ticked all these boxes. Despite the current situation and – at the time of writing these lines – the fear of a second wave, they decided to go through with the congress, which is set to take place at Angers Congress Centre from 9-10 September. This is also an opportunity for Destination Angers, the local convention bureau, to send a positive sign both nationally and internationally: the city is ready to relaunch business events in the safest way possible.
Pascal Asselin is President of the Conference of Construction Economists, which is intended to attract about 1,500 delegates. Despite all the difficulties that, in these times, such an event might encounter, he actually never thought of cancelling or even postponing it. “The Untec conference has been the emblematic meeting of our profession for the last 48 years,” he explains. “In spite of the disruption the pandemic has brought, we want to show our members and stakeholders we are proactive and that we value human interactions. Besides, this year’s theme is ‘Rupture’, whether social, economic, digital or climatic, so this is all the more fitting in these circumstances.”
The conference will take place in the broader context of the reinvention of cities. Angers is leading the way in the matter, with such projects as Imagine Angers, a programme that is developing daring and innovative constructions over what is branded as a ‘smart territory’. “A lot of cities are reinventing themselves and rightly so,” says Pascal Asselin. “The Imagine Angers project, which Untec fully embraces, makes it possible to tackle development problems in a holistic way and gives meaning to the political approach, while sending the right message to Angers’ inhabitants. We are in a transition period at all levels, we need to be agile and adaptable.”
The conference will be an opportunity to showcase Angers at its best: the city mayor will participate to a big debate on the first day, the community of local experts will be involved one way or another, from Aldev, the economic development agency to the Confederation of Small and Medium Size Enterprises to key players in the construction markets like Novabuild and Solutions&Co. In fact, it’s a whole-of-a-city approach that has been adopted to make the conference a success.
“When the Congress takes place, we will be proud to present to our foreign colleagues the first French version of the International Code of Measurement (ICMS), which Untec is a founding member of” concludes Pascal Asselin. “Angers is in fact the ideal place to do so! A renovated convention centre, a very diverse hotel offer, easy access by motorway and TGV… it’s easy to organize events there. Angers, which is also well known for its heritage and its relaxed way of life, has, in fact, entered contemporary history with a remarkable urban plan.”