Council Hears Recommendations for Conference Center, EOTC

Sarah Singer of JRO & Company outlines recommendations for the management of both the Hermiston Conference Center and the Eastern Oregon Trade & Event Center during Monday's Hermiston City Council meeting. (Photo: Michael Kane

In a little more than three months, the city of Hermiston will take over management of the Hermiston Conference Center. On Monday, the Hermiston City Council heard recommendations on how to maximize the usage and benefits of both the conference center and the Eastern Oregon Trade & Event Center (EOTEC).

Sarah Singer of JRO & Company, a consulting firm out of Olympia, Wash., spent about 45 minutes going over the firm’s recommendations for both facilities.

“We’re doing this to make sure both facilities are doing their best to meet their goals,” Singer said.

The firm interviewed city and chamber officials as well as former and current managers of the conference center and EOTEC to determine what roles each facility should play and how to best maximize their benefits.

Out of that process, the top priorities for the conference center were determined to be to provide a site for more recreation programs, community events and meetings, private events and private meetings.

Singer outlined eight recommendations should adopt in order to get the most out of the conference center. Those include:

  • Evaluate the current rate structure, and establish rates that are competitive with the regional market rates
  • Review and update all facility policies, provide clear and consistent information for tenants on the website and on all rental forms, and provide one rate structure for all tenants (non-profits and private parties)
  • Transition to an online booking system for the center
  • Evaluate the cost of contracting janitorial and event set-up services versus hiring in-house staff to perform the work
  • Consider having an on-site monitor at all events
  • Have a webpage dedicated to the conference center on the city’s website
  • Provide adequate storage space at the conference center for new recreation programming equipment
  • Consider using room dividers in the Great Room to allow more than one event at a time

Singer also presented three recommendations for EOTEC, which she said “differs from the priorities of the conference center. EOTEC has a different market.

Those recommendations include:

  • Evaluate the cost of contracting janitorial and event set-up services versus hiring in-house staff to perform the work
  • Develop a formal marketing plan to help focus EOTEC’s marketing resources.
  • Explore additional signage and branding opportunities to assist visitors in locating the facility

Hermiston City Manager Byron Smith said the city wants to make sure the two facilities are not competing against each other.

“We felt we needed to look at how these two can work together and we want to give the council a chance to keep this in mind as we approach the Jan. 1 date,” Smith said.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and the next few months,” said Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann.