Today is Monday, August 21, 2017

Expo Center not the place for 'on-the-job' training

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An expo center is coming to Lebanon. I have been an advocate of just that for several years. The benefit to the community and county can be tremendous, but it depends on one thing.

The right building manager must be hired. That means an individual with several years' experience, one who is probably currently managing a facility, is a member of a professional auditorium managers' association and familiar with all of the facets of the positions - and, perhaps, therein lies the problem.

For many years, I was fortunate to have worked with many building managers from facilities the size of the one planned for Lebanon to the big ones such as Madison Square Garden. I saw firsthand what the job entailed. I saw the difference between a good building manager and a person who may have been a star with the chamber of commerce but never ran an arena or expo center. They are not the same thing.

To hire and retain a competent manager is going to almost certainly mean luring one away from another facility. That means an attractive salary and benefit package. Fifty thousand dollars a year will not attract any attention.

To make the mistake of hiring someone without considerable building management experience will be tantamount to digging a hole and periodically throwing money in it.

Then, the staff must be competently rounded out, and the hiring should be the sole responsibility of the building manager. He must be able to hire and fire. A first-class building engineer is a must. This is a person who knows where every light switch is and just what can and what cannot be done in the building. This person should be the second hire after the building manager. Next, a good building will have an on-staff promotion director to work with building events in promotion and publicity. That person will also help in attracting events to the building. Each day a building is dark is a day money is lost.

If those three positions are filled with competent people - manager, engineer, promotions - the building is well on the way to being a tremendous boon to the economy of the city and county. To do that means money and some serious vetting of the applicants. To fail to do so, to hire someone because they have always been well-liked in the community and maybe have worked well with the county fair, would be tantamount to a death knell. This will not be a facility that can afford on-the-job training.

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Expo Center, James E. Ward Ag Center, John L. Sloan, Wilson County
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