The Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC) announced it has appointed Julie Coker Graham, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB), as its next co-chair. Coker Graham will join Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), in leading the coalition and promoting the value of face-to-face meetings, conferences, conventions, tradeshows and other events.

“We are very excited to have Julie be the first CEO of a convention and visitors bureau to co-chair MMBC,” Van Deventer said. “Her insights, experience and passion for our industry will be invaluable assets to the coalition, as we expand our reach among frontline industry professionals and destination leaders.”

Coker Graham is the first woman to lead the PHLCVB and the only African American woman to lead a DMO in a top U.S. market. Under her direction, MMBC will continue to advocate the industry’s value story among a diverse group of stakeholders, including meeting professionals, business leaders and elected officials. The coalition will also continue to reinforce the economic impact of face-to-face meetings in cities such as Philadelphia, where in 2016, meetings and conventions booked by the PHLCVB generated an estimated $989 million in economic impact.

“I am looking forward to serving alongside Paul Van Deventer and the entire MMBC team as we advocate for the meetings and convention industry,” Coker Graham said. “You cannot deny the value of face-to-face meetings—they are the foundation for generating positive results across all industries while also creating economic benefits for local communities across the country.”

Coker Graham will assume the leadership position previously held by Richard Harper, executive vice president at HelmsBriscoe. Harper has co-led MMBC since 2016 and has been an ardent supporter of the coalition since its inception. Under his leadership, MMBC has highlighted the role of face-to-face in an election year through its Worth Meeting About campaign; illustrated the stories of third party validators and C-suite executives through its Business Leader video series; rallied the industry for the second annual Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID); and expanded engagement with grassroots industry professionals through the MMBC Ambassador network.

With his guidance and support, MMBC has grown to house more than 60 members and continues to shape discussions around some of the meetings and events industry’s most critical issues.

“I want to thank Richard for his passion and dedication to MMBC since its inception,” Van Deventer said. “His contributions over the last two years as co-chair have helped grow the coalition’s reach and impact.”

Coker Graham will begin her term on Jan. 1, 2018. As president and CEO of the PHLCVB, she will continue to oversee all of the organization’s departments and operational duties.