“In today’s business marketplace, meeting planners are especially looking for the business-focused environments and top-of-the-line event services that conference centers offer,” said Associate Publisher and Editor Marlane Bundock in a press release. “The Elite 50 each offer meeting planners and their attendees a unique set of features such as technology and aesthetics, and are able to host a diverse range of gatherings from cutting-edge business meetings to well-orchestrated social events.”
The list, published in the magazine’s June issue, used criteria such as ergonomics, available technology and environmental friendliness to compile the 50 winners. The Clarence Brown Conference Center alone represented Northwest Georgia, with sites in Savannah, Atlanta, Marietta, Valdosta, Richmond Hill, Athens and Peachtree City forming the rest of the state’s winners.
Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau Deputy Director Regina Wheeler said the award was “a great honor,” citing ConventionSouth’s reputation among professional planners.
“We’re very excited. It’s one of our first honors since opening in 2010. We have not gotten five years under our belt yet, so we’re very excited to have reached this. We feel like it’s a milestone. We feel like we’re in great company as well,” she said.
With environmental friendliness and electronics taking up portions of the criteria, Wheeler believed the conference center’s technology helped set it apart from other locations. The conference center is equipped with interactive whiteboards, video conferencing equipment, soundproofing for meetings and on-site audio and video technicians to provide assistance. The building also has a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design gold rating, which appeals to a number of businesses.
“I think people are looking for LEED certification,” Wheeler said. “Our LEED gold certification certainly helps. People are [being] very environmentally conscious in their corporate efforts and right down to when they go off-site for meeting locations. I think that does matter.”
CVB Director Ellen Archer credited the building committee and architect for having the foresight to integrate such technology and green features into the conference center.
“I just frankly think that it is a testimony to the planning and the forethought of the committee that drove the creation of the conference center once it was approved by voters in 2008, as well as the architectural firm, which was chosen by the committee that executed those ideas that the Bartow leadership put forth [in] what they wanted to see,” she said.
In addition to the high-profile events it hosts each year, such as the expos, bridal shows, gun shows and Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce events, the conference center has a steady stream of customers each year in the form of small business meetings, training sessions and private events. Over the past year, Wheeler said, 70,000 guests have walked through the doors — the highest number yet.
“We’re thrilled to become the home for our local proms and having those students a little bit safer and a little bit closer to home. We loved that. We love to be able to give them a beautiful facility that they can feel welcomed in and feel like it’s their home. ... So there’s a lot of broad application here. ... We have executive facilities, executive boardrooms that can be used that are very secure, very private. We’ll do just about anything we can to work with you, to get the food service right and everything you need to make a meeting a success. I think that nonstop professional attitude is something that really has conveyed to our clients, keeps them coming back,” Wheeler said.
The award, which included locations in the South from Virginia to Texas, will be an invaluable marketing took, Archer believed.
“As we all know, this is a very competitive field. A lot of people, I think, forget that and any edge that certainly comes for a credible source, and ConventionSouth is definitely a credible publication for many convention planners,” she said. “It’s definitely a marketing tool we could never have afforded to buy. ... I do think the point needs to be made: we were totally unaware of this. There was no self-aggrandizement here.”
The conference center’s growth over the past four years has been due to a combination of local demand and sales work, Wheeler said.
“Having been built by [Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax] dollars when your community and your municipalities across the county get behind an effort, you know there is a local need without a doubt. So that was sort of a built-in market, but through our sales effort we are really broadening the scope because the Convention and Visitors Bureau mission is to grow the local economy through tourism. So we want to bring people in from outside the community,” she said. “We want those meetings in Atlanta. We want to be that easy-to-get-to location for people between Atlanta, Chattanooga to come and meet here, and likewise, locally, for our local companies to come and use this technology to be able to meet with their partners across America. We’re very excited about that.
“... There was definitely a need, but we have certainly grown through our efforts to broaden our market and as more people get in the building — word of mouth is wonderful.”
To view a complete list of the Elite 50 locations, visit www.conventionsouth.com/conferencecenters.htm.