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Portland Expo Center adds new advisory group

A new 18-member advisory committee at the Portland Expo Center aims to add new perspective and revenue opportunities for the events giant.

Expo Director Matthew Rotchford hand selected the all-volunteer committee in late 2012 to help the organization realize its master plan and tackle issues before
they arise.

“We’re such a small staff at Expo that it’s often hard for us to act as a larger think tank,” said Rotchford. “In the past, advisory meetings have been few, and based
around very specific or immediate topics. Rather than being reactionary, I want to us to be thinking ahead.”

Rotchford reached out to Expo clients, neighborhood businesses, and even government officials past and present; seeking volunteers with knowledge of the venue and a stake in its success, he said.

Some of the advisory committee members are former Oregon Sen. Avel Gordly, former Metro Councilor Ed Washington, and past president of OMSI and former MERC General Manager Pat LaCrosse. A mix of tradeshow veterans, including Peter O’Loughlin of the Portland Boat Show, Shellie O’Donnell with the Northwest Quilting Expo, and Chris Palmer of America’s Largest Antique and Collectible Shows, add their influence alongside a number of local business and industry leaders.

Rotchford hopes the committee’s business sense and community knowledge will grow the center’s reputation as a regional events space for both private and public events. At their second meeting, in February, members dove into topics that will undoubtedly develop over many months and years.

Subcommittees were tasked with thinking about how to improve outreach opportunities, review long-term funding options, and to research historical aspects of the center and its events.

“It’s great to get a group of this caliber into one room,” said Rotchford. “But breaking them up into mixed subgroups allows for new ways of looking at these issues.”

One issue that has the potential to affect business at Expo is the enormous bi-state highway project, the Columbia River Crossing (CRC). Rotchford said it’s more important than ever to ensure the center has a clear voice during its planning process. “Our events are some of the largest and well-attended. We need to ensure we maintain the levels of service our customers have come to expect,” he said.

Advisory committee member and MERC Commissioner Karis Stoudamire-Phillips said that the CRC is one of many topics important to her as both a nearby neighbor and as a commissioner for the Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission.

“I’ve lived in North Portland my whole life, and I’m concerned with how our area develops with the CRC and how it affects the entire community,” she said. “Being a neighbor brings a personal level of interest to this role.”

Maintaining good relationships with area businesses is also a priority for the center.

Linda Addy, managing partner of the seafood restaurant Salty’s on the Columbia, reached out to Rotchford several years ago to see how the two businesses could partner up. The two have been in touch ever since, making Addy an obvious addition to the committee.

“Our restaurant is only a few miles from Expo, and when they have events, we tend to be busy,” Addy said. “Other times, when people are looking for something to do after dinner, we’ll suggest events at the Expo. It’s all about supporting each other.”

Addy said that the opportunity to contribute ideas and share concerns with the Expo Center has always been important for Salty’s, and that the success of one business is often vital for the ventures surrounding it.

In May, Rotchford will lead the group’s third meeting, taking notes on what the subcommittees have prepared since their last gathering. With the collective brainpower of the group, he said that channeling their enthusiasm is his own challenge.

“These volunteers are committed to helping us make great things happen here at the Expo Center. We are a family-oriented facility, and we want to continue to offer positive events that everyone can support and enjoy.”

The Portland Expo Center is Oregon’s largest multi-purpose facility, hosting more than 100 annual events with five exhibit halls and ten meeting rooms, and generating $35 million in annual spending. The Expo is owned and operated by Metro, and managed by Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission (MERC). Visit www.expocenter.org for more information.

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Date: 
Friday, June 7, 2013