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Industry Briefs
Visit Florida Board Appoints Ken Lawson as President & CEO


One week after Will Secombe stepped down from the top post at Visit Florida in the midst of a controversy surrounding a $1 million promotional contract paid to musician Pitbull, Ken Lawson was named the agency's new President and CEO. 

The announcement was made following a unanimous vote of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors during a recent meeting in Orlando.  Lawson, who previously served as the Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), assumed his new position with VISIT FLORIDA on January 11.

The work VISIT FLORIDA does to promote tourism is vital to the continued growth of the state's economy and having someone with Secretary Lawson's strong leadership background will secure our continued success," said William D. Talbert, III, CDME.  Talbert is VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors chairman and president/CEO of the Greater Miami CVB.

Lawson, a native Floridian and former U.S. Marine Corps Judge Advocate General, has spent 12 years serving and protecting the public in numerous regulatory positions, including his most recent work overseeing - among other divisions - restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals with DBPR.  During his six-year tenure with DBPR, Lawson managed a team of 1,600 employees charged with licensing and regulating more than 1 million businesses and professionals throughout the state.

"Florida tourism has great momentum with five consecutive years of record visitation, visitor spending and industry-related employment and I look forward to building on this momentum to take VISIT FLORIDA to the next level," said Ken Lawson.

What Other Industry Leaders Are Saying:

"Ken Lawson will be a tremendous asset to VISIT FLORIDA and ensures the organization will be well-positioned to continue to play a key role in promoting the state to visitors around the globe," said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and member of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors.  "VISIT FLORIDA needs a CEO with his impeccable capabilities and strong sense of responsibility to the public sector, and I am honored and privileged that he has agreed to take this significant leadership role."

"A leader with Ken Lawson's proven track record will elevate VISIT FLORIDA's efforts to strengthen our state's share of the global travel market," said Carlos Gazitua, president & CEO of Sergio's Restaurants and member of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors. "He brings the perspective of best practices from both public and private entities to his new role that will help VISIT FLORIDA meet any challenges going forward."

"Secretary Lawson is a dynamic and innovative leader whose direction will help VISIT FLORIDA maximize the economic impact of travel and tourism to the state," said Samantha Padgett, vice president & general counsel with the Florida Retail Federation and member of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors. "Under his tenure, DBPR increased their efficiency, transparency and open communication, and we can expect that same level of openness at VISIT FLORIDA."

"I have every confidence that through Ken Lawson's extraordinary leadership, VISIT FLORIDA will establish the Sunshine State as the No. 1 travel destination in the world," said Maryann Ferenc, president & CEO of Mise en Place and vice chair of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors.  "We need the type of zealous leadership he has shown at DBPR and I look forward to working with him in the years to come.  Now is the time for the private sector to really get to work."

VISIT MILWAUKEE TURNS 50

VISIT Milwaukee, the region's destination marketing organization responsible for attracting conventions, events, business and leisure travel to the Greater Milwaukee area, celebrates 50 years in 2017.

Incorporated as the Milwaukee Convention & Visitors Bureau on January 6, 1967, VISIT Milwaukee began as a joint proposal between the Milwaukee Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the Milwaukee Hotel-Motel Association and the Wisconsin Restaurant Association to "re-establish Milwaukee as a major convention city." In 1977, the bureau changed its name to the Greater Milwaukee Convention & Visitors Bureau and in 2004, to VISIT Milwaukee. 

When incorporated, the Milwaukee CVB was the only organization of its kind in the state. By 1975, there were eight convention bureaus.

"It is an honor to be celebrating 50 years of service to the Greater Milwaukee area, especially during such an exciting time for our community," said Paul Upchurch, president & CEO of VISIT Milwaukee. "With so many new hotels, restaurants, attractions, and developments in the area, there is no question that business and leisure travel will continue to accelerate in our region. The addition of the new Bucks arena, the Lakefront Gateway, the streetcar, and other community improvements will attract new visitors, which will spur additional growth for our area, making Milwaukee an even better destination to live, work, and play."

Locally, tourism brings in over $5 billion in total business sales and supports more than 50,000 full time jobs each year. VISIT Milwaukee is an independent 501(c)6 organization charged with marketing and branding the Greater Milwaukee area to increase the economic impact of conventions, events, business and leisure tourism.

About VISIT Milwaukee

Celebrating 50 years in 2017, VISIT Milwaukee is the Greater Milwaukee area's convention & visitors bureau, marketing the destination as a top choice for business, convention, and leisure travel to national and international visitors to increase the economic impact of tourism in the region. Each year, tourism supports over 50,000 full-time jobs and brings in over $5 billion to the community.  VISIT Milwaukee has over 650 members, including hotels/motels, restaurants, attractions, services and area businesses. The City of Wauwatosa, Potawatomi Hotel & Casino and the Wisconsin Center District are strategic partners with VISIT Milwaukee, providing funding support for conventions and tourism programs.  For more information call (800) 554-1448 or visit www.visitmilwaukee.org.

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