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Long Beach loses annual Women's Conference

February 3, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The city of Long Beach takes a financial hit with the cancellation of the annual Women's Conference, which brought lots of glitz and cash to the city.

The conference grew dramatically under former California first lady Maria Shriver, drawing stars, celebrities and even first lady Michelle Obama.

The yearly gatherings have meant millions of dollars to Long Beach.

It has been a conference that has been held in Long Beach since the 1980s, bringing people from around the world. California's new first lady Anne Gust Brown doesn't think she has time for it. It has always been hosted by the state's first lady.

Last year's conference at the Long Beach Convention Center brought some 30,000 participants. Hosted by Shriver, it included Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.

It brought some money to groups like Interval House. The $70,000 they would have received this year is not something they counted on or budgeted for but the conference meant more to them.

"No where can you go to a conference like this and be with political leaders and interesting stories and inspiring people that have done tremendous things with their lives and impacted other people's lives," said Janine Limas Hageman, Interval House.

Long Beach received $5.6 million spent by people at the conference. The head of the convention and business bureau says the Shriver-sponsored events financial loss can be made up, but it is not about the money.

"It brought a variety of people together from all walks of life and they walked out empowered, it was wonderful to watch that transformation each year," said Steve Goodling, executive director of the Long Beach Area Convention Center.

Anne Brown praises all her predecessor's efforts, but in a statement, says: "I will focus my immediate energies on the challenges before our state and won't try to recreate the conference that Maria put on in Long Beach. The people at Interval House have nothing but to praise for Maria Shriver."

"She was really able to bring together political leaders, philanthropists, companies and businesses and inspirational people that not only intended to share their knowledge but they also contributed financially," said Sharon Wie, director of programs at Interval House.

The people who put the conference on do believe they can make up for the money that has been lost.

They have already booked the convention center for the time the women's conference would have been held.

They hope they can restart the annual conference.