OCEAN CITY – Citing personal reasons including a desire to relocate and explore new opportunities, the town’s tourism director and convention center figurehead has resigned less than two months before the peak season begins.
“It’s been great. I have enjoyed Ocean City and the people, and I hope I made a difference,” Ocean City Tourism Department Director and Roland E. Powell Convention Center Executive Director Mike Noah said in an interview Wednesday.
Noah signed on with Ocean City amidst a major expansion of the convention center in 1996. He oversaw the project for the city and recapped this week some other accomplishments during his tenure.
“This is one of the longest tenures I’ve ever had in a facility, … and we’ve done some great things – the first major expansion, lining us up for a second expansion, finally getting the [tourism] guide combined, securing long-term bookings to set the building up for the future and proving the building was viable,” Noah said. “There were naysayers in the beginning when that first expansion was approved, and I think we have proved it was the right decision and that this is a viable building.”
Ocean City Public Relations Director Donna Abbott said Noah would be missed.
“I am very sad to see him go. He has been wonderful as my direct supervisor for the last 12 years. He’s been my only boss here,” she said. “He’s been very fair to deal with, helpful and supportive and let me do what I thought needed to be done from the public relations part of the city.”
Noah, the sixth highest paid town employee with a 2008 salary of $138,180, made it clear he is “moving on” and not retiring. When asked directly if he had a position lined up elsewhere, he refused to comment out of respect to the town. He did, however, report he and his wife would no longer call the Ocean City area home.
“I am in the facility business, and we are a bunch of nomads. A lot of us move from town to town and try to bring what we learned at the last place to the next place,” Noah said. “I have worked everywhere, east coast, west coast, and there’s always something down the road. … The main reason I have been here as long as I have is the excellent staff … the best and most professional of any I have ever worked with and I feel I leave the town in good hands.”
While noting Noah’s position as tourism chief and manager of the convention center is critical to the town, Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce President Todd Ferrante said he looks forward to continuing a partnership with his replacement.
“We wish Mike well in his future endeavors, and we look forward to working with whoever the city finds to lead us in the future,” Ferrante said. “This is a great opportunity for the city to find a new person to really sell Ocean City for all of its attributes, to fill the convention center and put heads in beds. Change is good sometimes. In this economy, there are a lot of bright, young individuals who would love the opportunity to work in Ocean City and bring in a lot of new energy and ideas to town. This is a great place to work and call home.”
Regarding the future expansion of the convention center including the addition of a performing arts building, Noah feels the city has made a wide decision.
“If they build it, these guys can fill it. Ocean City is pretty well set as far as regional business and we are a drive-to destination,” he said.
However, Noah said there’s reason to be concerned about the convention business, in general, given current economic indicators.
“I am going to be honest with you. The bookings are up, but in the economy the question is: are the people coming? That’s another issue, and I can’t address that,” Noah said. “But the good news is we do have the long-term events in here, so they’re not going anywhere, it’s just how they will be affected by the economy.”