No in-person Northwestern Mutual meeting a nearly $13 million hit for Milwaukee economy

Last updated on May 5th, 2020 at 12:29 pm

Northwestern Mutual has decided to shift its 2020 annual meeting to a three-day virtual format instead of holding it in Milwaukee on Aug. 10 to 12 as planned, due to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“Although the threat of COVID-19 may improve over the summer, it’s necessary for us to make our decision with currently available public health data. We feel it’s best for our employees, our financial advisors who travel here from all over the U.S., and for the Milwaukee community that we meet online,” the company said in a statement.

The Milwaukee-based insurance company’s annual meeting typically draws around 12,000 people to the city and has an estimated economic impact of $12.9 million.

The shift to an online event adds to the growing list of cancelled, postponed or altered events in the Milwaukee area. Through mid-April, VISIT Milwaukee estimated the changes brought on by the coronavirus had cost the region around $47 million in economic impact.

Since then, there have been additional cancellations, including Irish Fest, which was scheduled for Aug. 13 to 16.

The change in NML’s event format only adds to questions about whether the Democratic National Convention can be held on its new dates the week of Aug. 17.

The DNC was originally set for July 13 to 16 but was rescheduled in early April. It was originally expected to draw around 50,000 people to the city and have a $200 million economic impact.

In a typical year, Northwestern Mutual holds its event in the third or fourth week of July, but the company had shifted to an August date for 2020 to accommodate the DNC’s original schedule.

NML’s statement noted the company had held its annual meeting in Milwaukee every year since 1877 and only suspended it for World War II.

“We are scheduled to be back at Fiserv Forum in July 2021 and hope the public health outlook allows us to resume our annual tradition,” the statement said.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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