I had a great experience on Wed, Thurs, and Fri last week. I went to an NAEC site visit with Teresa and a group of other volunteers – in Grand Rapids Michigan – really. I can hear you asking, “what’s an NAEC site visit all about?” and “why Grand Rapids?”.
Here’s the way this stuff works: NAEC has a specification for its convention. Costs, meeting space, show floor size, load bearing capacity, ceiling height, room cost, booking policies, contract stipulations – and on and on and on. They utilize a site selection company to narrow down any potential convention sites, and then also to negotiate the necessary contracts once a site has been selected. Connie Bergeron of Site Selection Solutions is a pro at this stuff and has worked very effectively for NAEC for years.
So this year, Connie comes up with Grand Rapids Michigan as fitting the bill – a qualified option for an NAEC convention – and believe it or not, there aren’t that many. Grand Rapids seems like a weird place for an elevator convention, so Faye from the NAEC office goes and checks it out. Faye reports that, as strange as it sounds, Grand Rapids really looks good.
Teresa, knowing that a city like Grand Rapids is bound to be met with some degree of skepticism, gathers a cross section of NAEC membership to come with her to do some close quarters inspection. The thought process is that if this group buys in, everybody will – and NAEC will have a group of members out there already sold on the idea that this is a really good place to hold the convention. The exact same process resulted in our going to Cincinnati a couple of years ago – and by acclamation, it was one of the best convention venues NAEC has ever visited.
So off we go – with the city of Grand Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau – called Experience Grand Rapids – picking up a substantial portion of the expense. It’s John Fichera of TEI from New York, Ken Garst of Great Lakes Elevator from Chicago, Erik Bleyle of Bleyle Elevator from San Francisco, Mike Klehr of MEI from Minnesota, Mike Paschke of Canton Elevator from Ohio, and our token Kanuk – Steve Husband of GAL Canada – and me. How would you like to try to ride herd on that crew?
The attention that was paid to our every question was total. Although I think we rubbed shoulders with just about everyone who works in the hospitality industry east of the Mississippi, our primary care takers were Bob Snyders from Experience Grand Rapids, Heather Bacle who is Sales Manager for the Amway Hotel Collection, and Kathy Bart and Kristy Doak who are both attached to the convention Center. This quartet is an amazing combination of competency and warmth – and Kristy was shrugging off the fact that her first born is due next week.
Teresa put us through the paces. Over the three days, we heard about, drove by, walked through, looked at, talked over, tried out, questioned, ate, drank, and absorbed everything that Grand Rapids Michigan had to offer. And you know what? Pretty neat place. We all agreed that if NAEC can come to terms with Grand Rapids, it would be a really good venue. NAEC contractors and suppliers from every corner of the country are going to enjoy this city.
The convention Center is modern, well organized, close to all of the right hotel space, and within walking distance from a plethora of independent bars and restaurants. If Grand Rapids happens, the HQ hotel would be The Amway Grand. Very nice place, affordable by almost any standard, great lobby, bar, restaurants, and exercise room. And another thing that you couldn’t miss – the people of Grand Rapids are friendly…..and,,,, they want our business. In some cities, our show is considered a very small piece of business. In Grand Rapids, we are exactly the size they are looking for. We would fill a good deal of the two major hotels and have the entire convention center to ourselves.
Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan with close to 1 million in the greater metropolitan area. Depending of the time of year, there are 10 airlines that fly into GR and these fly nonstop from as many as 19 different cities.
For dinner on the final night our merry band was joined by a couple of the heavy hitters in Grand Rapids promotion sphere as well as a group of local elevator types. Cal Rogler – Chief Inspector for the State of Michigan, Dave Flint from U of Mich, Bob Schumacher from Mich State University, and four of the McNally clan from McNally Elevator all joined in the merriment. We had a great meal amongst great company.
I suspect there will be an NAEC Convention held in Grand Rapids at some point – maybe 2019 – Go – you’re gonna like it.