Frank Poe to lead Georgia World Congress Center

By LIsa R. Schoolcraft and Maria Saporta
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Frank Poe, director of the Dallas Convention Center, is the new executive director of the Georgia World Congress Center.

The GWCC Authority unanimously elected Poe, a 38-year veteran of the convention industry, on Tuesday. He’ll take the reins on April 1.

Poe, 59, started his career at the Dallas Convention Center in 1972 as a part-time laborer. He was appointed general manager of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., from 1979 to 1980. He went back to Dallas and for the next 17 years held several leadership positions in the center’s event services and cultural affairs departments. He then became executive director of Alabama’s Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in 1997, which he held for seven years until moving back to Dallas in 2004 to assume the director position for the next six years.

“I think he’s a good man,” said SecurAmerica Executive Chairman Tom Bell, a member of the search committee. “He’s a good choice for us. He has great operating experience. Hopefully, he’ll keep our team in place. We have terrific young people in the senior management team.”

As director of the Dallas Convention Center, Poe had fiscal control of an annual budget of more than $60 million and was responsible for the management of the Dallas Convention Center, Reunion Arena, Dallas Farmer’s Market, Union Station and the Office of Special Events.

“Dallas is similar to our experience but not quite as big as Atlanta,” said Bob Prather, chairman of the GWCC board. “We feel we have made a very good decision.”

Poe replaces Dan Graveline, who is retiring after 33 years leading the nation’s fourth-largest convention center. He was the only man to ever hold the position.

Graveline was named general manager while the facility was under construction and led the center through its official opening in September 1976. He oversaw the completion of three expansions — in 1985, 1992 and 2003 — that quadrupled the size of the GWCC. He also oversaw the construction and 1992 opening of the adjacent Georgia Dome, as well as the development of Centennial Olympic Park.

During Graveline’s tenure, the GWCC Authority’s three venues generated more than $40 billion in economic impact for Georgia and Atlanta.

Graveline has known Poe for nearly 30 years.

Poe “brings a wealth of experience” to the GWCC, Graveline said. “Many people in our industry know him. He’s familiar with a major market that doesn’t have the destination appeal of Las Vegas or Orlando.”

Poe knows the customer base for GWCC “because Dallas competes for our customers,” Graveline said. “He’s a proven commodity, which I think is important now.”

The Georgia World Congress Center, Georgia Dome and Centennial Olympic Park welcomed more than 6.4 million visitors in fiscal 2009. Those visitors put $1.4 billion new dollars into Georgia’s economy and generated $2.2 billion total economic impact and $171 million in new tax revenue.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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