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Asheville conference estimated to have $1.5 million impact canceled due to HB2

The conference was to be held at the Grove Park Inn, and would have brought an estimated 500 people to Asheville, according to the foundation (Photo credit: WLOS)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- News 13 has learned the Detroit-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation has canceled a major conference in Ashevillewith an estimated $1.5 million economic impact, because of House Bill 2.

The conference was to be held at the Omni Grove Park Inn, and would have brought an estimated 500 people to Asheville, according to the foundation.

Negotiations about the contract are ongoing. Kellogg Foundation spokesperson AJ Jones says the foundation put a significant deposit down for the conference.

Either way, the foundation will not have the confernce in Asheville or North Carolina.

Jones says the foundation expects to go to another Omni property in another state. Jones also said the decision to leave is no reflection on the Omni organization or Asheville, but rather the policies of lawmakers who passed HB2.

"It is unfortunate that the Kellogg Foundation has decided not to have their event at our resort," said Omni Grove Park Director of Public Relations & Community Outreach Tracey Johnston-Crum. "That is their business decision and we respect, as we would with any client, their choice of location for their meetings."

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation's (WKKF) Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation enterprise (TRHTE) would have been held in August, but has now been moved to later in the fall. During the conference, leaders from across the U.S. discuss how to deal with race, ethnicity and issues of discrimination in reference to healthcare, housing, education, criminal justice and employment.

This year's conference will also discuss LGBTQ discrimination, but the focus is always on raising children in communities where work is being done to alleviate prejudice and discrimination.

This would have been the first of a seven-year initiative that could have come to Asheville each year. This would have the fifth time the foundation had hosted a conference at the Grove Park Inn.

In past years, the topics have included healing, health and well-being; the conference has dealt largely with race, racism, disparities, inequity, and equality.

According to its website, the "W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society."

Jones says Omni representatives told Kellogg that they too are against the policies of HB2.

News 13 will have more on this story tonight at 6 p.m.

Read the statement from the Kellogg Foundation in its entirety below:

Since then, with the state's recent passage of an anti-LGBT law, we issued a statement emphasizing our disappointment with North Carolina's failure to protect all human rights. As a result, we are cancelling this four-day conference which would have brought over 500 people to North Carolina and generated millions of dollars in economic activity for the state's local economy. The event will now be held in December and in a different state. We will provide additional details about the Summit at a later date.

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