An Ohio marketing professional with a sports background has been selected as the new president and CEO of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, to replace the retiring Tracy Kimberlin, according to a news release.
Mark Hecquet comes from Butler County, Ohio, located between Cincinnati and Dayton. He is president and CEO of Travel Butler County, a destination marketing organization that serves the county with 390,000 people, and has been in that position for 16 years. He’s slated to start at the Springfield CVB on Jan. 17.
He also serves as district governor for the Ohio Amateur Athletic Association, a volunteer position, and is past sports marketing director for the Warren County, Ohio, CVB.
Hecquet, pronounced HECK-ee, hails from England and moved to the United States in 1992 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management and a master’s degree in sports management from the University of Kentucky.
Hecquet said he is looking forward to his new role.
"From the moment I first arrived in Springfield I truly felt the wonderful sense of community spirit and the excitement for their travel and tourism industry,” he said in the release. “I am excited and honored to lead the Springfield CVB. I look forward to working with the team, board of directors and the entire Springfield community to further the great work of this organization."
Joe Wadkins, CVB board president, said Hecquet led the pack from the early days of the search process that was conducted nationwide by SearchWide Global, an executive search firm that works primarily with organizations in the travel, tourism, hospitality, convention, trade association, venue management and experiential marketing industries.
“We were very excited to find Mark,” Wadkins said in the release. “He was a unanimous choice. We had some great candidates, but he stood out. We believe he will be a great addition to the CVB team and a good fit in the community.”
Kimberlin praised the choice.
“Mark has a lot of experience and will bring a wealth of knowledge and new ideas to Springfield,” said Kimberlin, whose last day on the job is Dec. 31, in the release. “I’m confident I am leaving the CVB and the future of local tourism in good hands.”
In an interview this month, Kimberlin reflected on his time with the CVB. He began as the top executive, then called executive director, in 1987, and he has held that position for 35 years. Prior to that, he was on the board of directors for six years, starting in 1981.
In 1987, he was the fifth staff person and oversaw a budget of $400,000. Today, he helms a staff of 18 and a budget in 2022 of $4.3 million.
He said he felt he is leaving the organization, and the city, in good shape. Under Kimberlin, the CVB offered $1.5 million of its own funds as a match for American Rescue Plan Act funding to build the Ozarks Empire Fairgrounds arena and the Cooper Tennis Complex/Killian Sports Complex.
“We were in effect a catalyst to get the city and state interested in funding those projects,” he said. “I think Springfield is really poised for future growth.”
Another key achievement was getting the CVB through the pandemic while maintaining all of its employees, and then to achieve a record year for tourism in 2021 and break it this year.
Kimberlin also devised a formula called the Missouri model for the state to fund the Division of Tourism through commissions based on tourism growth. He was named to the Division of Tourism’s Hall of Fame for his innovation.
Ariake Sushi and Robata opened; Great Southern Bancorp Inc. (Nasdaq: GSBC) opened its newest branch in Springfield; and a longtime employee with City Utilities of Springfield went into business for himself with the launch of Van Every Drafting & Design LLC.