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Despite Katrina, RIMS sticks by New Orleans


NEW ORLEANS—New Orleans is up and running, and ready to host RIMS' 2007 conference, organizers say--but planning the gathering in the hurricane-ravaged city did pose some challenges.

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005, the RIMS board of directors began pondering, "Is New Orleans going to be ready to host a conference the size of RIMS in April 2007?" said Michael Liebowitz, RIMS president and director of insurance and risk management for New York University.

Mr. Liebowitz traveled to New Orleans within three months of the tragedy, and was surprised by the rebuilding efforts. "I expected to see a city that was destroyed," he said. "That's not what I saw. I saw hotels open and operational. I saw people working. I saw a convention center that was clean and being reconstructed."

RIMS' 2007 conference will be held at New Orleans' Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which spans 10½ city blocks and hosts nearly 100 national conventions and tradeshows a year. In the wake of Katrina, it completed $60 million worth of renovations.

"It did suffer some damage, but it's totally redone," said Carolyn Snow, chair of the New York-based RIMS' conference programming committee and director of insurance and risk management for Louisville, Ky.-based Humana Inc. "So from a facilities point of view, we expect it to be excellent."

The biggest challenge in holding RIMS in New Orleans this year, Ms. Snow said, was "people's perception of how ready the city is in terms of services and things like that."

"The big question mark," Mr. Liebowitz said, was whether another major storm would strike the city in 2006, an occurrence that, fortunately, did not happen.

"New Orleans is a special place for RIMS. It's the site of the first RIMS conference," said Mr. Liebowitz. "What a travesty it would have been if we pulled out of it in their time of need."

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