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Gawronski: Compass ready for convention center

[05/10/01] The management firm hired by city officials to run the Vicksburg Convention Center is ready to focus on marketing, sales and public relations, said Larry Gawronski.

Gawronski, the first executive director hired to manage the center and now vice president of venue development for Compass Facility Management, made the comments during a talk Wednesday to the Vicksburg Lions Club.

Gawronski, whose office is in New Orleans, said after Compass took over the center April 16 its main focus was to make sure the transition from city management to private management went as smoothly as possible for the employees. Now, he said, the company can concentrate on what Compass was hired to do, reiterating what he felt is Compass’s strength, the fact that it is small.

“We have five other facilities, this is the sixth. We can concentrate on the business of main street, not on Wall Street,” he said.

All of the venues managed by Compass, he said, are located in secondary and tertiary markets, in the shadow of larger centers and arenas, in other words, they are venues similar in size to Vicksburg’s.

One of the goals, Gawronski said, is maximum utilization.

“We reach for optimum facility utilization because we want the right matrix, the right mix of events. The mix of conventions that use hotel rooms, the mix of banquets, the mix of meetings, the mix of trade shows, consumer shows, concerts, spectator events, arts and crafts shows, you name it,” he said.

There can be mistakes, Gawronski warned. Even though Compass is made up of trained professionals, what works in one place might not work in another.

“We’re going to try. We’re going to succeed. We’re going to have valleys. We’re going to have some failures, but we’re going to recognize that and build from that,” he said.

But, he said, Compass is up to meeting the expectations Vicksburg and its residents have for the convention center.

Further, he said, the way Compass handles each venue is tailored to the special needs and situation of each. They rely on guidelines and principles that are proven, but apply them differently in each community.

Gawronski said the company’s goal between when it took over and June 2 was to pay employees, pay the bills and set up shop in Vicksburg.

After that, he said Compass plans to bring live events to Vicksburg.

“We see that hall as a great place for 2,000 to 2,500 for live events, from everything from swing, big band, rock and roll, country … to bring quality of life and bring activity back to the downtown area,” he said.

While they are working on those goals, Gawronski said Compass and the local staff will be working aggressively on sales, marketing and public relations to bring business to the center.