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Visitor bureau to pursue large-group conventions

By Jeffrey Pieters

jpieters@postbulletin.com

With a new director soon to be on board, the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau has set a number of goals to improve its performance in the year ahead, group leaders say.

In a presentation to the city council on Monday, bureau chairman-elect Bruce Fairchild said the Convention and Visitors Bureau will attempt to "brand" Rochester to attract more large groups to have their conventions and special events in the city.

"That's not getting two or three (tourists) at a time," he said. "That's getting 200 or 300 at a time."

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A full-time director, whose job it will be to accomplish those goals, will soon join the organization. The bureau had strong interest in its executive director's position, open since November when former director Brenda Riggott left the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The board hired its top choice, Brad Jones, who has held a similar position the past 10 years in Mackinac City, Mich. Jones will join the Rochester bureau by the end of February, Fairchild said.

"He was the unanimous choice of the selection committee," Fairchild said, "and there were a lot of good candidates."

Rochester council members complained in a budget meeting late last year that the city-owned Mayo Civic Center was poorly promoted by the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and in fact absent from some printed materials -- not, some council members said, a good return on the city's commitment of one-half of Rochester's hotel-motel tax revenue.

The council sought assurance that that would change and got it in Fairchild's presentation, in which the civic center featured prominently.

Among its goals, the bureau plans to hire an outside agency to coordinate promotion of the city and civic center, conduct at least 40 tours of the facility for potential and likely users, and create a promotional video featuring Rochester and the civic center. The video will be put on DVD, with at least 200 copies sent to interested parties.

The bureau pledged to include Mayo Civic Center in all of its promotional materials.

Too often, Fairchild said, Rochester has a "glass half empty" outlook on the quality of its offerings for outsiders.

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But with the network of downtown hotels linked by skyways, riverside trails and a new art center, he said, "we've got a lot for the right market. We have a tendency to take some of that for granted."

Other 2005 goals for the Convention and Visitors Bureau:

Book 120 events and 75,000 hotel "room nights."

Conduct two "sales missions" to the Twin Cities and generate 140 sales calls from them; conduct other sales missions to Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee, Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Recruit and train at least 20 volunteers to help with heavy events.

Turn over recruitment of sports-related events to the Rochester Amateur Sports Commission.

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