NEW YORK CITY (6/30/08)--America's Credit Union Conference & Expo officially kicks off this morning at the Hilton New York, with more than 1,670 credit union executives, volunteers and guests attending and "Powering Up" with more than 35 speakers. The attendance is the largest group since 1997's convention in Las Vegas, said the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), which presents the annual conference. Planners are happy with the turnout, especially in a weak economic environment. Consumers across the country have cut back long-distance travel and generally are sticking closer to home because of high gas prices, food prices, and transportation costs. Four hundred vendors are registered for the event, and the Exhibit Hall is sold out, according to Todd Spiczenski, CUNA vice president. Conference tickets to optional events also sold out, including three Broadway plays--"Lion King," "Gypsy," and "Mama Mia" and tonight's New York Yankees vs. Texas Rangers game. The makeup of the attendees is slightly different. This year, 45% are executive and credit union staff, compared with last year's 60%, but the event grew in the board member area, Spiczenski said, with 55% attending are volunteers. The average asset size of attendees' credit unions is $600 million, with a median asset size of $350 million. About 65 credit unions with less than $35 million in assets took advantage of the small-credit union discounts offered by CUNA. Some attendees arrived earlier this weekend to tour a community development credit union with the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, which is headquartered in New York City. Today's keynoters include retired New York City Fire Department Chief Richard Picciotto, author of Last Man Down: A Firefighter's Story about the events of 9/11; and Susan Packard, co-founder of Home and Garden Television (HGTV), who will discuss new business models and branding. Closing day speaker will be Steve Farber, speaking about "The Radical Leap: Extreme Leadership at Work and Beyond." Thought leader discussions run the gamut of topics--from how good leaders manage themselves first, to how blogs, potcasts, viral marketing and online media can help tap their members directly. The conference will conclude Wednesday. To see what you're missing, check out the resource link.