|By Barry Shlachter, Fort Worth
Star-Telegram, TexasMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Dec. 1, 2006 - FORT WORTH -- The Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau hired a meeting industry insider from Dallas to succeed Douglas Harman, who has served as its president and chief executive since leaving his post as city manager 17 years ago.
David DuBois, 50, has 28 years under his belt as a sales executive for the Sheraton and Ritz-Carlton chains and as a staff executive for two large convention planner organizations. Selected from among five finalists in a 30-applicant pool, he will assume the office Jan. 2.
Although DuBois has agreed to take the job and move his family to Fort Worth from Plano, his salary has not been completely hammered out, he said Thursday. He is executive vice president at Dallas-based Meeting Professionals International, an association of 20,000 conference and meeting planners.
"We've agreed [about the position], obviously, or we would not have made the announcement, [but] we're still finalizing a few things," he said. "Right now, it's in its final conversations."
Harman, 66, who said he might teach and consult but will be available "to mentor" DuBois, reported that his 2006 compensation package included a $150,000 salary and use of a Ford Expedition with 105,000 miles.
Jeff King, a JP Morgan executive who is the bureau's board chairman, said talks on salary are almost finished, adding that the amount that will be offered to DuBois is roughly in line with what Harmon received this year. There will be no vehicle with the job, he added.
During his first 30 days, DuBois said, a major task will be to identify 1,500 organizations whose meeting requirements "would be perfect for Fort Worth."
"We will see if they have files on them and if we have approached them," he said.
Another pressing matter would be to ensure adequate bookings at an expanding roster of downtown hotels. An Omni hotel is under construction near the convention center and two hotels are undergoing renovations: the former Clarion is becoming an Embassy Suites, and the Plaza will become a Sheraton. These three hotels will eventually increase room inventory by 1,200 and, he stressed, convention planners were already booking cities two and three years down the road.
An avid hockey player with 40 recreational games this past year, the Detroit native headed sales efforts for Sheraton hotels in Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C., and had been marketing director at two Ritz-Carlton hotels in the Atlanta area. He has worked twice for the Professional Convention Management Association, most recently as its chief executive, and twice for MPI.
Until he finds a new home, DuBois said, he and his wife will live at hotels downtown to experience the city from a visitor's viewpoint and examine Fort Worth's strengths as a tourist destination.
"The biggest challenge in Fort Worth until this time has been the hotel package," he said, referring to the limited room inventory, which precludes large conventions. The city's assets, he said, include a world-class airport, a "safe, living and breathing downtown" and numerous cultural institutions and entertainment blessed with a "cowboy and culture" image.
Bob Jameson, area general manager for the Renaissance Worthington Hotel, said Harman and his staff have done a "commendable job with what they've had to work with."
Barry Shlachter, 817-390-7718 firstname.lastname@example.org
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