Each year, the California Downtown Association (CDA) hosts its annual West Coast Urban District Forum (WCUDF) at a different California city and this year, it was held in Oakland.

Oakland is like Long Beach in many aspects: it sits in the shadow of a much larger city as its neighbor, it is home to a thriving port, its population is as diverse as its neighborhoods, and the pride its citizens hold for their home is unparalleled. (Of course, except when it comes to our own hometown pride.)

Last month’s conference proved to be ambitious in its layout, stretching from the marinas of Jack London Square to Downtown Oakland to Uptown Oakland. It was clear that Oakland wanted to show the conference attendees consisting of Downtown leadership and management organizations, improvement district associations and city leaders something that was different than the reputation that precedes it; Oakland is thriving and it’s because, in the words of Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney during her conference welcome, “of the hard, tireless work of the Business Improvement Districts that we are rising up to the place we always knew could be reached.”

Besides joining a handful of DLBA staff members to attend the conference, our presence did not go unnoticed. I must say that DLBA was the organization that everyone looked to and sought to emulate. If Oakland was rising up, DTLB was already near the top in terms of what the DLBA does as the leader of the Downtown.

DLBA President and CEO Kraig Kojian, Special Events & Marketing Manager Gina Dartt and Placemaking Manager Sean Warner were session presenters, sharing their expertise with conference-goers in their respective fields. Our Communications Manager Brian Addison was asked to photograph not just the conference, but the city as a whole so that the event could be pictured in a way to share with the masses. Long Beach Deputy City Manager Arturo Sanchez and Innovation Team Director John Keisler also represented Long Beach on panels ranging from the nightlife community to statewide i-Team initiatives.

Other than representatives from Oakland, I was the only Board Chair to attend the conference—something I publicly challenged all attendees when announcing at the keynote luncheon that the 2017 conference will be held in DTLB. Hosting this conference is a testament to DLBA’s leadership and the opportunity to showcase our developing and evolving Downtown.

Come next spring, I encourage our residents, stakeholders and community leaders to make a presence at our conference to impress visitors just as Oakland did with us, but with one difference: do it the DTLB way!