Tracy Kimberlin is synonymous with the Springfield-area hospitality industry.
A year after graduating from Missouri State University with a bachelor’s in education, he started as general manager of the Sheraton Inn and Conference Center, managing over 125 people. He’s held leadership roles ever since, including his work overseeing construction of Ramada Hotel-Hawthorn Park, which is now DoubleTree Hotel.
In 1987, he took the reins of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau charged with developing the area’s tourist industry.
“The convention and visitors bureau contracts with the city of Springfield annually to create positive economic impact on our community through promoting Springfield as a destination for meetings and conventions, sporting events and leisure travel,” Kimberlin says.
The president of the hospitality nonprofit has led its growth.
When hired, the CVB acted as an arm of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce with a $435,000 budget and five employees. Now, that budget is nearly $3.5 million and the organization’s workforce has expanded to 19 full-time and two part-time employees, as well as around 40 volunteers.
“Tracy is a tireless advocate for tourism at the local, regional and statewide levels, and for the enormous impact the tourism industry has on the broader economy, to the benefit of us all,” chamber President and CEO Matt Morrow says. “A lot can be learned about a leader by the caliber and performance of the people he leads, and in Tracy’s case, there is no better indicator of his outstanding leadership capacity than the consistent excellence that is demonstrated by the team he leads so well.”
Kimberlin’s leadership can also be felt outside the Show-Me State.
In the early 1990s, Kimberlin was the architect behind state legislation designed to establish a funding mechanism for the Missouri Department of Tourism. Dubbed the Missouri Model, the legislation that passed overwhelmingly in 1993 is based on growth in sales tax revenues generated by the travel industry, rather than a new tax.
The work earned him a spot in the department’s Missouri Travel and Tourism Hall of Fame in 1994, and the model is now used by a number of other states.
“It is considered a best practice for funding state tourism offices,” Kimberlin says.
At home in the Queen City, he was actively involved in 1998 and 2004 in a partnership between the CVB, chamber and other organizations to secure passage of two increases to the city’s lodging tax, both by three-to-one margins. The first meant funding for the construction of Wonders of Wildlife, Jordan Valley Park and Jordan Valley Ice Park, and the second gave the city more convention and sports marketing funding.
Kimberlin’s leadership was recognized by the CVB in 2013, when he was given the organization’s highest honor, the Pinnacle Award, recognizing significant contributors to the Springfield area’s travel industry.
“These are the people who know me better professionally than anyone else, and to have them select me for this award was very special,” he says.