Study to explore feasibility of convention center for High Point

Feb. 28, 2013 @ 06:52 PM

A group of High Point business and tourism leaders announced Thursday that it has hired a firm to study the feasibility of developing a convention center in the city.
The boards of the High Point Partners and the High Point Convention & Visitors Bureau have enlisted Strategic Advisory Group of Atlanta to assess the potential for establishing a meeting or event facility. Both organizations are looking for ways to increase consumer traffic and provide a general economic boost to the city outside of the High Point Market twice a year. Representatives of both groups say the need for a large, multipurpose meeting space is critical to help High Point compete as a year-round business destination for meetings, trade shows and conventions.
“Clearly, there’s a need for event space in High Point. The questions are, ‘What kind? How big? and Where at?’” said CVB President and CEO Tim Mabe. “What we want to do is take a real smart approach to determine what it is that would make the most sense for us in High Point.”
The boards of both organizations are hiring Strategic Advisory Group for “less than $60,000,” with the CVB picking up the bulk of the cost, Mabe said. The firm is expected to complete its study by July 2014.
The group last year interviewed several companies interested in doing the study before settling on Strategic Advisory Group, which has done similar projects for communities around the country and “has a history of delivering high-quality analysis and being relentlessly objective about what the cities need and don’t need,” Mabe said. “We want to know not only what it is we need to do, but we want a plan of action on how to get it done.”
The loss of Showplace as a site for conventions, conferences and trade shows has underscored the need for new alternatives, he said. The city has lost events that Showplace previously hosted, including the International Custom Rod Building Exposition, the Southern Building Material Association’s annual trade show and North Carolina Aerospace Association and North Carolina Emergency Medical Services Association events, Mabe said.
“These are just some of the ones we’ve lost the last several months. This results in over a $1 million loss to our economy,” Mabe said.
Civic events at Showplace, like the annual Hospice of the Piedmont’s Taste of the Town fundraiser, also are at risk of being displaced, he added.
The group wants the study to look at all options for event space, including whether there may already be sites available in the city that would fit the bill.
“I don’t want to leave any stone unturned. That’s why we’ve got a consultant,” Mabe said. “First of all, you have to find out what you can support.”
He cited a hypothetical scenario involving a professional association of about 2,000 people holding a convention. It would require banquet space for that many people, as well as room for smaller “break-out sessions” and exhibit space. It’s typically the fees that exhibitors pay for space at conventions that finance the events, he added.
Such a scenario would require a 40,000- to 50,000-square-foot facility, he estimated.
Strategic Advisory Group will do extensive research into the question of what it would take to bring these types of events to High Point. Mabe said the partners and CVB are concerned about High Point’s ability to compete with other cities in landing conventions, particularly state association conferences.
“We are leaving some money on the table, in our opinion,” he said.