The innovative Team San Jose approach to convention center management, which brings together representatives from the convention and visitors bureau, convention center, hotel community, organized labor, and arts and cultural community to create a single point of contact for planners booking the California city, has been given a vote of confidence. After deciding a year ago to send out a request for proposal to consider other structures for the city’s convention and tourism management, the San Jose city council has now voted unanimously to stay with the Team San Jose model and discontinue the RFP process.
“That vote to issue an RFP was really a shot across the bow and it woke up a lot of people,” says Bill Sherry, chief executive officer of Team San Jose, who was hired to replace Dan Fenton in March 2011 after Fenton resigned. At that point, the city council was frustrated that TSJ wasn’t meeting enough of its objectives. “When I came in, I had to ask myself a question: Do I believe in the model? And the answer to that was an absolute yes,” says Sherry.
Sherry and his team started focusing on nine performance measures that the city established and, at the end of the year, met seven of those goals. The only two goals that Team San Jose didn’t meet were related to attendance at theater and cultural/arts events. All convention and meeting standards were met, including the number of convention bookings and customer satisfaction. TSJ grew revenue to $19 million, $5 million over budget.
Sherry also cites a renewed sense of communication between TSJ and city leaders, and more involvement from labor. Labor is now engaged earlier in the sales process to avoid situations in which salespeople make unrealistic promises. “I have been very impressed about how labor has come up with some incredibly creative ideas and solutions to problems,” says Sherry. “The difference is you engage them early in the process rather than later, and it works so much better.” The successes have instilled such a new level of confidence in the city that the organization has turned course and is heading in the right direction, adds Sherry.
“I support the vision and goals of Team San Jose’s new leadership,” said Chuck Reed, mayor of San Jose. “This extension [to TSJ’s] will allow Team San Jose to build on its recent progress in bringing business to our convention center that will generate new revenues, hotel room nights, and jobs in our community.”
In addition, a $120 million expansion and renovation of San Jose’s McEnery Convention Center is under way. The expansion will add 125,000 square feet of meeting space, including a new ballroom, to the center’s existing 425,000 square feet of space. The project also calls for renovation of the existing structure. The expected completion date is September 2013.