Roughly 40 governors from across the country are converging on Boston this weekend for the annual summer meeting of the National Governors Association.
Between Friday and Sunday, they’ll gather at a downtown hotel for sessions focused on health care, childhood nutrition, energy policy, information sharing, the economy and the perils of the federal budget deficit. Exact attendees were not announced in advance, but California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell are scheduled to make presentations.
Guest speakers include IBM Chief Executive Officer Samuel Palmisano, national debt czars Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, as well as Assistant White House chef Sam Kass, who will perform a cooking demonstration linked to state and national anti-obesity campaigns.
“There are only 50 of us with this unique responsibility, and it’s important that we learn from each other, share our experiences – both good and bad – so that we can provide even better service to the people of the states that we serve,” Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, chairman of the association, said last month during a preview visit to Boston.
He will kick off the meeting Friday morning with a news conference at the Statehouse also attended by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and the meeting’s host, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
The gathering includes two major social events, a reception Friday night at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, and another Saturday at Fort Independence, a granite post overlooking Boston Harbor.
Both occasions will allow corporate and special-interest sponsors who have donated $2 million to help underwrite the event the chance to meet and speak with the governors and their top staff members. Sponsors include Cassidy & Associates, a major Washington lobbying firm; defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp.; Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., and; Raytheon Co., the biggest private employer in Massachusetts.
The Patrick administration established a nonprofit organization to solicit funds and handle meeting logistics. It is run by David O’Brien, a Democratic National Committee member from Massachusetts. While Patrick is up for re-election this fall, aides said he was not involved in the fundraising.
“In order to avoid even the appearance of a conflict, Governor Patrick had no role in soliciting funds for the annual meeting,” said Patrick spokesman Steve Crawford. “Many of Massachusetts’ leading corporate citizens have demonstrated their pride in our state through their generous support.”
The association is covering the other $600,000 in costs through registration fees and membership dues.
The governors meet collectively twice a year, once each winter in Washington, where they attend a dinner at the White House, and once each summer at a revolving venue. They previously met in Boston in 1978, under then-Gov. Michael Dukakis, a Democrat, and 1994, under then-Gov. William F. Weld, a Republican.
About 1,000 attendees are expected, and tourism officials expect they will pump $3 million into the local economy through hotel and restaurant spending, as well as, for at least two of them, college tours with their children.
“We get the first bounce from the $3 million in spending that takes place over the weekend. Then we get another bounce down the road from business leaders across the country,” said Pat Moscaritolo, president of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. “That’s our sweet spot for future business.”
Protesters are also expected to target the receptions and business meetings. They plan to picket against Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and her state’s new immigration law, as well as Patrick and his decision to allow civilian flaggers to join police officers in directing traffic at some Massachusetts road construction sites.
“It’s a great country,” Patrick said with a laugh Wednesday when asked about the protesters.