INDIANAPOLIS - Visit Indy says the National FFA Organization's decision to keep its annual convention in Indianapolis is the result of nearly a year of negotiations. The Indy-based organization Tuesday announced Indianapolis would continue to host the event through 2031. Chris Gahl, senior vice president of marketing and communications with Visit Indy, says the FFA needed to book the convention that far out for various reasons, including date availability, space requirements and the competitive nature of a convention this size.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, Gahl says the decision came down to Indy and Atlanta, and the competition was fierce.

"Certainly Atlanta is a major airport hub. It's also a very convention-friendly city (with) lots of amenities, but it's not as walkable," said Gahl. "We think, at the end, our time-tested ability to roll out the red carpet, to have this walkable, connected downtown that will be made even bigger with the announcement a few months ago with the new hotels coming online by 2021-2022 at Pan Am Plaza, those were lynch pins in keeping them safe and sound here in Indianapolis."

Gahl adds the recently-announced plan to expand the Indiana Convention Center, including a new ballroom, and add 1,400 hotel rooms downtown really piqued the interest of FFA officials.

In addition to the economic impact the event has on the city, Gahl says one of the big wins for hosting the convention is the positive impression that Indianapolis leaves on the students who attend. He says that could have an impact on a student's decision to attend an Indiana college or entering the local workforce after college.

The 2018 National FFA Convention & Expo drew just under 70,000 attendees, which is a new record for the organization. The event had a nearly $40 million economic impact for the city.