Thoughts From The Publisher's Desk
Interesting concerns were raised this week regarding the impact the proposed performing arts center will have on the Roland E. Powell Convention Center’s ability to maintain existing big-money bookings as well as appeal to new groups.
Internally, word has it the folks who sell the convention center and are charged with securing bookings at the facility are worried about the performing arts center encroaching on the building’s floor space availability that is critical to securing large events, such as the Seaside Boat Show, which utilized the entire convention center earlier this month, and the Reach the Beach Cheerleading event held last weekend.
The cheerleading event created an uproar this week when an agency representative confirmed the event’s future is in question as a result of the planned construction work associated with adding the performing arts center to the convention center. Apparently, verbalized comments were a lot stronger than the email obtained by this newspaper this week. Either way, questions surround the event in Ocean City, sparking a firestorm in the local hospitality industry amid fears offseason business would be devastated if an event of that magnitude looked elsewhere to hold its convention.
Mayor Rick Meehan and Convention Center Director Larry Noccolino, among others, had a conference call with cheerleading event organizers yesterday to address what the facility will look like next February and the following years. Both seemed confident the town was going to be able to assuage their fears. Meehan reported yesterday the conversation was positive and the city has agreed to make minor tweaks to ensure the cheerleading convention can continue largely as is in Ocean City.
Although renewing contract talks to retain the convention in Ocean City were not reportedly part of yesterday’s discussion, the city has surely learned something this week. Apparently it was the plan all along, but city officials need to immediately reach out to the city’s convention customers to ensure they understand what the next phase of the convention center expansion will mean to them. When those talks are not held in advance, situations like this week occur and misinformation muddies the waters and causes drama, sometimes unnecessarily.
Losing big convention business in favor of the performing arts auditorium is not acceptable. The larger conventions should not be forced to modify their working plans with the city either and plans for the addition should address that. The city is the host and the conventions are the clients, and the city should do whatever it takes to make sure the client is happy and content and aware of what lies ahead. There cannot be a take it or leave it mentality, and I’m not suggesting there is currently.
The large conventions should not have to make sacrifices as a result of the performing arts auditorium. In my view, the auditorium can be an extra feather in the town’s hat, but it can’t hamper the groups who bring thousands of people to Ocean City annually.
There absolutely must be a way for the convention center to not lose existing clients as a result of the new addition. That defeats the purpose and creates major problems for businesses that rely on the off-season commerce to get through the year. The conventions are guaranteed business.
In light of the convention people’s concerns as well as those being articulated privately by sales people charged with filling the convention center space, some business people are suggesting the city explore other sites, such as the quagmire that is the 94th Street parcel, or the site of the city-owned Sunset Room, which is located north of the convention center and is despised by private business because it competes with local establishments for weddings and special events. Whenever government and the private sector compete against each other, feathers get ruffled.
More than likely, the performing arts center is not going to be relocated. It’s going to be a part of the convention center. To change the plans now would place a three-egg omelet on the face of the city as it’s in a partnership with the state on this project and basically anything that goes on infrastructure wise at the convention center.
What was learned this week is not everyone in tourism and government is on the same page as far as the performing arts center and its impact on the convention center and the resort. That’s okay. What’s most important is not losing convention business and being pro-active with other large-scale conventions that may have concerns about their future in Ocean City but have yet to articulate them as a representative of the cheerleading group did this week.
Along with the minimum wage increase that appears inevitable, Maryland business owners need to keep a close eye on a piece of legislation titled the “Sick and Safe Leave Act.”
House Bill 735 and Senate Bill 698 aim to require employers to allow employees to accrue paid sick and safe leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. It calls for employees being able to carry 56 hours in a calendar year to the next year.
This legislation is basically a government mandate on how businesses should operate. It’s yet another attack on small business, as the disconnection between state decision makers and private industry continues to grow and appall. If it’s not going to work with or help the private sector, government needs to get out of meddling in business and how business owners operate.