ICVA executives sharing leadership duties

January 11, 2011

Three executives of the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association are leading the organization by committee as directors search for a permanent leader to replace its outgoing CEO.

ICVA CEO Don Welsh announced Jan. 3 that he is leaving at the end of the month to take the job as CEO of the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau.

James Wallis, ICVA’s executive vice president, told the Capital Improvement Board of Marion County at its monthly meeting on Monday that he, along with Warren Wilkinson, senior vice president of marketing, and Michelle Travis, vice president of sales, are sharing management duties.

“We continue to implement our business plan,” he said. “We have a great team in place, and we’re continuing to move forward.”

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.

ICVA’s search for a new CEO will be conducted by its board, led by Chairman Michael Browning, though directors are on no timetable to name a replacement, ICVA spokesman Chris Gahl said.

“It could be a month, six months or nine months,” he said. “We’re in no rush to put someone in place just for the sake of [it], when we have a seasoned leadership team.”

Wallis declined to divulge whether he or the other two ICVA executives are candidates for the CEO position and said the board is exploring all its options, internally and externally.

In any event, Wallis said the board should have the benefit of being very selective in its appointment.

“We’ve got a great product and a great city,” he said. “A lot of people will be interested in this position.”

Boosting Indianapolis’ profile in the convention and tourism industry is the larger Indiana Convention Center. The $275 million, 350,000-square-foot addition will officially open on Jan. 20.

ICVA moved over the weekend into its new, 18,000-square-foot digs on the second floor of the new structure.
The city also is in the midst of planning for one of its biggest events ever, the 2012 Super Bowl.

In Indianapolis, Welsh became known as a crusader for investing in tourism. He lobbied for and got increased funding for advertising and marketing initiatives needed to lure more conventions and leisure travelers to Indianapolis.

And he did so as the economy tanked and the Capital Improvement Board struggled with a $47 million budget shortfall. Welsh also helped secure a $5.4 million grant from the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation Inc. to be used to promote the city as a visitors’ destination.

During Welsh’s tenure, he increased the ICVA’s annual budget by $3 million, to nearly $14 million.


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