By Jim Kelley
As Fern heads into 2022, the organization is pleased to announce several personnel changes. These changes, driven by Fern’s growth, will allow the company to continue to meet the evolving needs of show organizer clients and maintain its focus on exhibitor solutions and service while providing an increased level of operational efficiencies across the organization.
As of January 3rd, the following changes have occurred:
Steve Larsen has been promoted to Chief Operation Officer, reporting to Aaron Bludworth, CEO. “Steve has been performing many of the COO duties temporarily throughout the pandemic and has done a tremendous job. Since joining Fern, he has always been thoughtful and deliberate in his decisions while at the same time being quick to act and has had the best interests of the customer, team members, and company at every turn,” said Bludworth.
Larsen added, “I am looking forward to the new role and continuing to support the mission and vision of Fern that keeps us focused on our customers and their exhibitors. Along with the company’s mission and vision, our values have been and will continue to be guideposts for me as COO.”
Neil McMullin’s current role as Senior Vice President of Shared Services has expanded to include leadership of Fern’s Exhibitor Sales and Solutions Team. This expanded role will allow McMullin to guide the exhibitor experience while developing new products and solutions. This role is very familiar to McMullin as he was instrumental in developing Fern OneView and 1Rate, both of which are industry-leading solutions for exhibitors and show organizers.
At the Branch Level, Chris Meecha will assume the role of General Manager of the Louisville Branch. Meecha has long been a leader in the Louisville location, managing many key accounts, and will carry on the strong legacy Fern has in Louisville. In Atlanta, Zach Schlag will assume the role of General Manager. As a member of the Fern team serving major show portfolios, Schlag has proven himself capable of leading some of Fern’s most complex projects while keeping a keen focus on client relationships and service delivery.
Robin Mullins will take on the newly created role of Director, National Support Services. As the company returns to a pre-pandemic like show schedule in 2022, the importance of internal operational efficiencies and efficiencies within Fern’s vendor network have been magnified. Mullins will work closely with the account service & operations teams to determine how production processes can improve, resulting in an enhanced service experience for clients.
“While the pandemic certainly presented our industry and organization with unprecedented challenges, it provided us a rare opportunity to slow down, step back and look under the hood internally,” Bludworth said. “Based on that, we were able to make changes that we are confident will provide a better experience for our clients while continuing to provide our employees an excellent work environment they can be proud of.”
Jim Kelley is Vice President, Marketing & Industry Relations for Fern.
By Nancy Walker
The Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC), owned by the City of Los Angeles and managed by ASM Global, the global leader in venue and event strategy and management, has named Ben Zarhoud as its new Assistant General Manager.
Zarhoud, most recently VP of Finance at the LACC, joined the facility in 2018 with a background in accounting and finance management. Prior to joining the LA Convention Center, he spent six years in senior management at AEG and AXS Group LLC and six years at Deloitte & Touche LLP.
Ellen Schwartz, General Manager of the LACC commented, “Since joining the team, Ben’s collaborative approach has had an extremely positive impact on every department. His keen ability to identify areas for process improvement enables us to grow and be the best we can be.”
Zarhoud adds, “I am excited for the opportunity to work more closely with such a dynamic team. Our collective belief in helping our clients produce the best events possible, while continuing to drive revenue to the city of Los Angeles, remains our top priority.”
Nancy Walker is Vice President, Sales & Marketing, at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
By R.V. Baugus
Bruce MacPherson, long-time IAVM member and managing director of Richardson’s (TX) Charles W. Eisemann Center for Performing Arts and Corporate Presentations, announced on January 6 that he plans to retire later this year.
MacPherson helped oversee the design and construction of the 117,000-square-foot facility and has served as its managing director since January 2000, according to a city news release.
“In theater terms, I would say I’ve had a very good run and that I’m thankful for all the shows and people I’ve had the opportunity to work with,” MacPherson said in a statement. “This September will mark the 20th anniversary of the Eisemann Center’s opening. I see this milestone as the appropriate time for me to step aside. I may physically be gone, but my heart, my soul, and my love for the Eisemann Center will remain. I shall always be thankful for my time in Richardson and am truly grateful for having had the opportunity to play such a lead role with the Eisemann Center.”
When he retires September 30, MacPherson’s career in the field of performing arts will have spanned 45 years, according to the city release. In addition to overseeing the city facility, he also managed the Eisemann Center Presents series of nationally recognized touring artists and attractions.
“This is the end of an era,” Richardson City Manager Dan Johnson said in a statement. “Bruce was an integral part of the Eisemann Center’s design and construction, and he has played a leading role through the first 20 years of its operation. We are going to miss him very much and wish him all the best.”
Richardson plans to partner with Arts Consulting Group in February to begin recruitment efforts to find a new managing director for the Eisemann Center, according to the city release. The announcement of a new managing director is expected this summer.
By Mabel Hung
The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (“HKCEC”) scooped a record-breaking total of 44 awards and certificates in 2021 despite being seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining its leading position in the Asia-Pacific region. This remarkable achievement is attributed to the concerted effort by the team of professionals behind its management company, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (Management) Limited (“HML”).
Recognitions attained by HML span across many different categories. Providing customers with world-class services and facilities, the HKCEC was voted the “Best Convention Centre (North Asia)” for the second time in a row in the M&C Asia 2021 Stella Awards organized by Northstar Meetings Group; as well as the “Exhibition Venue of the Year – Hong Kong” in the 2021 APAC Business Awards organized by APAC Insider magazine. HML’s F&B team has also earned eight awards at the Hong Kong International Culinary Classic 2021, demonstrating high level of culinary excellence and creativity.
In light of the pandemic, stringent preventive and social distancing measures have been adopted at all events and restaurants to give visitors peace of mind. HML’s flexibility in events rescheduling and professionalism in tailor-making solutions to comply with the Hong Kong Government’s anti-epidemic regulations has been widely acclaimed by all organizers. The HKCEC is the only Asian finalist of “Best Venue Event Safety Plan” (COVID-19 category) in the Exhibition News (EN) Awards 2021, organized by Mash Media Group Ltd. HML also received nine awards and certificates at the “Business Resilience & Community Contribution Awards 2021” organized by the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency, with all facilities and restaurants fully complying with anti-epidemic measures.
HML’s commitment to sustainability was underpinned by the 19 sustainability-related awards and certificates garnered during the year, including the Grand Award in the Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) Achievements Awards Hong Kong organized by Green Council. Other awards and certificates were related to caring for the society, anti-discrimination and protecting the environment. HML was a founding signatory of the “Net Zero Carbon Events” Pledge, launched in November 2021 during COP26, committing to net zero carbon emission by 2050.
Monica Lee-Müller, Managing Director of HML, is proud of the team’s outstanding accomplishments and remains positive towards the outlook of the industry, “Attributing to the resilience and innovation of the HML team in upholding hygiene measures, large-scale public events such as art shows, book fairs, and concerts were held successfully and safely during the year. While we remain vigilant to the new variant Omicron, I am confident that our team will continue to overcome challenges brought by the pandemic and is ready to welcome the return of international events and visitors as travel restrictions to and from Hong Kong are gradually relaxed.”
Photo: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (Management) Limited scooped 44 awards and certificates in 2021, maintaining its leading position in the Asia-Pacific region.
Mabel Hung is Director – Communications & Sustainability for the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre.
By Andra Bennett, APR
After a pandemic-induced pause in plans, the Fort Worth City Council has approved $52 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to support the first phase of planned expansion of its city-owned convention center (FWCC).
The $500 million expansion, which had been planned for several years to accommodate larger conventions and group meetings, was about to begin with robust funding from hotel occupancy taxes when the COVID-19 shutdown began in 2020.
“We had our first meeting with the design review committee in February 2020, and then two weeks later, our plans were shelved indefinitely,” said Mike Crum, director of the Public Events Department for the City of Fort Worth. “With this kickstart in ARPA funds, we can revisit the design with new insights from meeting planners on what they and their attendees now expect from a venue in terms of overall experience.”
The expansion project will take place in two phases. The first phase prepares the venue to operate during the second phase. It includes the construction of new Food & Beverage facilities, the relocation of a city street (to create a site for a future convention hotel) and the re-building of the FWCC loading docks. This phase is fully funded and expected to begin in late 2023.
The second phase of the project will include the demolition of the 1968 FWCC arena and creates 97,000+ of total exhibit hall square footage, additional flexible meeting rooms, a new 60,000 square foot ballroom, and renovation to the current facility, which was previously expanded in 2002-03. This phase will be funded when hospitality taxes recover to the point where they can support the issuance of $450M in debt to fund the construction.
“The group meeting business has categorically changed in the past two years,” Crum said. “We may be adjusting the design plans to meet different needs than the initial plans of more ballroom and exhibit space, i.e., a broadcast studio to conduct hybrid meetings or other technology assets like virtual reality that are becoming an expectation, not an optional add-on.”
Photo by Mike Crum
Andra Bennett, APR, is Marketing Communications | Public Events Department for the City of Fort Worth.