ICVA chief leaving Indianapolis for Chicago

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Don Welsh, the top executive at the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association since 2008, is leaving the city to take the job as CEO of the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau, the ICVA announced Monday night.

don welshWelsh

“The entire Indianapolis hospitality and convention industry is extremely appreciative of Don’s commitment and enthusiasm over the last two and a half years,” said ICVA Board Chairman Michael Browning in a prepared statement. “As with past ICVA leaders, Don has been instrumental in keeping Indianapolis’ strategic growth moving forward and raising the profile of the city.”

The ICVA said a search for a new CEO will be conducted by the board starting almost immediately.

ICVA is the city’s official sales and marketing organization responsible for driving tourism and booking conventions. The organization has had only four CEOs since 1978, including Welsh.

Welsh, 54, was CEO of the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau before arriving in Indianapolis in August 2008 to replace retiring ICVA chief Bob Bedell.

During Welsh’s tenure, the city opened Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indianapolis International Airport’s new Weir Cook terminal. In the first quarter of 2011, the city will open the expansion of the Indiana Convention Center and finish the JW Marriott Indianapolis.

“With Indianapolis’ strong tourism product, including the expanding convention center and the coup of hosting the [2012] Super Bowl, we know this position will be extremely sought-after by numerous top-level executives both in Indianapolis and across the country,” Browning said.

When the $275 million expanded Indiana Convention Center opens Jan. 20, it will propel the facility from the 32nd to the 16th largest convention center in the U.S., with 749,000 square feet of exhibit space.

“I am extremely thankful for my time in Indianapolis; this is truly a first-class destination poised for continued growth,” said Welsh in  prepared statement. “I am confident Indianapolis will continue to attract new conventions and leisure visitors from around the globe.”

Chicago's McCormick Place, with 2.7 million square feet of meeting space, is the largest convention center in the nation.

Welsh will replace Tim Roby, who resigned after four years in the job to join Starwood Hotels & Resorts as senior vice president of sales for North America.



  • Good Riddance
    I am so glad to see Don Welsh go. He was a reckless spender who always was after our tax dollars. He pushed to give Indy the highest combined hotel tax and sales tax in the country.

    Welsh was paid far more than he was worth. His salary and benefits were actually around $400K.

    Welsh cost taxpayers millions. If we rent a cardboard picture of an executive we will be doing better than Welsh.
  • What's incorrect?
    Arb, where is this story incorrect? It says those events happened while he was CEO, which is true. It doesn't say he was responsible for them. You should read a little closer before making harsh accusations.
  • Disgusting
    Both the IBJ and the ICVA are incorrect. The Journal can't print the facts and the ICVA don't know good Indy promoters. Welsh had nothing to do with the IND terminal,the Super Bowl or the new Convention Center.They were either on the planning board or finalized before the job-hopping Welsh even arrived on the scene.
    • Welsh Leaves a big hole...
      It sounds like there are some sour grapes. He is a great professional and did some wonderful things here, like getting the JW Marriott! Sounds like Hotel Manager did not like that new hotel coming to town. I love it...another great reason to come downtown!
    • i agree w/ stephen, non-compete
      the more i think about it, i cannot believe he didn't sign a no-complete clause. what kind of idiots are running the CVB?
    • Dumb
      Two years on the job and now he can take Indy's playbook with him to a competitor city just up the road from here.
      Smart hire Indy, how about a non compete agreement clause in the next hire's contract.

      • hotel manager
        lets be honest, this guy was a bum...he is a job-hopper, who never really gets anything done. when it is made public that he didn't reach his goal, he makes excuses and then looks for another job that will pay him more.

        this was a poor hire to begin with, and i hope the "hiring committe" realizes this and will learn from their mistake.
      • I agree with Dean
        I absolutely agree with Dean. We must be competitive in our compensation packages for executives such as the head of the CVB. Some of these positions are responsible for a huge chunk of the growth associated with travel, tourism and, in particular, the convention and meeting business. It's essential that Indianapolis continue to work very hard to be as competitive as possible with many of the cities in our region, such as Chicago, Cincinnati and Louisville. We're doing well, but we need to continue to hone our focus and develop a much more comprehensive marketing and promotions plan to attract even more and bigger conventions and trade association meetings to Indianapolis.
      • Let them be rewarded
        Do you realize how much money these folks help to bring into our city from Indy to D.C.to .....? I don't have a problem with them making what they make as long as we continue seeing "strong" growth in our city. They are planting the seeds for building our future. Fiscal restraint is good, so don't get me wrong; there are limits of reasonability with respect to income levels. They are one of the organizations that help to bring change at a micro and macro economic level to our city and the surrounding areas. They help to impact our local economy at a grass roots level with immediate impact and also help our city's future growth by affecting our ranking at a national level and international level which only helps our future growth. My opinion is that if they "bring it in" let them be well rewarded.
      • opportunity for some restraint
        It will be interesting to see if we are capable of exercising some fiscal restraint in setting the salary and benefits package of Mr. Welch's successor.

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