August 01, 2007

Meeting Professionals International will open an office in Singapore on Oct. 25. The announcement was made jointly by MPI and the Singapore Exhibition & Convention Bureau at MPI's World Education Congress, held this week in Montreal for more than 3,700 attendees. Initially, the office will have one employee who will report to Didier Scaillet, MPI's vice president of global development. This is the latest in the association's efforts to expand globally. In other MPI news, the board of directors unanimously has voted to sign the United Nations Global Compact on Corporate Social Responsibility. According to MPI, the compact is the world's largest corporate responsibility initiative with more than 3,700 participants and stakeholders from more than 100 countries. It provides a platform for participating organizations to advance their commitment to environmental sustainability and global citizenship.

Chicago's McCormick Place officially opens its West Building tomorrow, months ahead of original projections. Connected to McCormick Place South and the 800-room Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, the building adds 470,000 square feet of exhibition space to the convention center complex, plus 61 meeting rooms totaling 250,000 square feet, including a 100,000-square-foot ballroom. Other features include a 250-seat restaurant, a 600-seat exhibit-floor food court and an 8,000-square-foot rooftop garden and event space. The opening night reception for ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership's annual meeting on Aug. 11 will be the first event held in the building.

Wayne Bennett, the executive director of the Fresno (Calif.) Convention and Visitors Bureau, will resign from his post on Aug. 31. Bennett, who joined the bureau in the fall of 2005, explained his departure by saying he wants to spend time with his new wife and insists that the bureau is "in great shape," despite a scandal earlier this year involving a former bookkeeper embezzling $56,000. "The Budget Finance and Audit Committee has tightened up controls," Bennett said. He will remain at the bureau in a supporting role until the end of August to help the transition process. Oran Cogdill, former owner of the Best Western hotel in Fresno, has been named interim executive director. A search committee for a permanent replacement for Bennett will be formed soon.

Former Palm Beach County (Fla.) Convention and Visitors Bureau controller Donna M. Duffer on Monday was sentenced to 10 years in jail for stealing $1.6 million from the CVB. According to the Palm Beach Post, she forged 225 checks over three years to pay for her online gambling habit. She also was ordered to repay the amount, which the bureau currently owes to the IRS in back taxes and penalties.

Omni Hotels has announced three new projects. About three blocks from the convention center in Houston, the downtown Sheraton that currently is closed will be renovated into an all-suite property with 400 guest rooms, a 13,000-square-foot wellness center and 30,000 square feet of meeting space. The conversion is expected to take about two years. Near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Omni has purchased 90 acres that will be turned into a planned community. Ground will be broken in the spring on a 350-room hotel; eventually, the resort will have a boutique hotel and other accommodation options. In Chicago, Omni is adding a second hotel on Michigan Avenue with park and lake views. The property will have about 350 rooms and 30,000 square feet of meeting space, and will open sometime in 2009.

The Pennsylvania State Legislature has approved a $700 million plan to expand the Pennsylvania Convention Center. When completed in the first quarter of 2010, the expansion will offer 541,000 square feet of exhibition space as well as a 60,000-square-foot ballroom, making it the largest contiguous exhibit space on the East Coast.