Korn Puts CVB On Radar

October 17, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Janet Korn was recently booted upstairs, again.

The hard-working director of marketing for the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention and Visitors Bureau was promoted to vice president of marketing earlier this year, and that upward move underlined what she considered to be her biggest career break.

Korn said her break hasn’t come in one defining event or crucial moment, but rather has come from a series of opportunities the CVB has given her that have allowed her to broaden her responsibilities within the bureau.

“When I first came here, I was the membership director, and my role really was to sell businesses memberships with our organization. And I have been able over the last 11 years to continue to expand my responsibilities and assume new roles that evolved with the organization,” she said.

As vice president of marketing, Korn has the heady job of overseeing the organization’s internal and external communications. She is responsible for the multiple Web sites the bureau operates and the reams of printed materials the CVB distributes all over the country.

But her goal is singular, and that is to attract vacationers and convention delegates to Grand Rapids and to the Lake Michigan shoreline.

“I’m the keeper of the brands, if you will,” she said. “I have overseen the integration of the ‘Michigan’s West Coast’ brand into our sales and marketing effort.”

And so far the effort has been successful. Korn said more people are discovering the city and the shoreline as a destination for both pleasure and business, as tourism, convention and trade show traffic has been trending upward the past few years.

“It’s really an exciting time to be here because we’ve got a great story and a great place. Our only obstacle is there is little awareness; we’re just not a huge city on everyone’s radar screen. But what we get to put on people’s radar screens is positive every time. So from that perspective, (my job) is easy.”

One positive showing up regularly on most radar screens is

DeVos Place
, as having a large, modern convention center has helped Korn and the CVB drive their messages through the front doors of organizations that hold annual meetings.

“It’s the shiny car that gets people’s attention. It puts us on a new radar screen for people. There is this price of entry into the marketplace — you have to have certain things, and

DeVos Place
is a great building that performs very well for people. They like that,” she said.

So what does Korn like best about her new position? Her projects are varied and she is constantly being tested to try to find new ways to complete them.

“Our ability to look at the first-tier cities and discover how they are addressing our clients and projects, and being able to embrace tips from them and apply those to work for us — I find that exciting,” she said.

“I’m a competitive person, so I like the challenge of what we’re trying to do, and then the ability to address it maybe in a new, exciting and different way.”

Before Korn joined the CVB she was an adjunct instructor in the Grand RapidsCommunity College culinary arts program. Prior to teaching, she managed a restaurant in Chicago. But she let the Business Journal in on a little secret: She loves food but really doesn’t like to cook all that much.

Korn was one of the very first to sign on with the West Michigan chapter of Inforum, a professional women’s alliance previously known as the Women’s Economic Club. Based in Detroit, the alliance claims to have 2,000 professional women and men as members in the southeast chapter.

The group highlights the successes women have had in the business and nonprofit worlds, and works to foster and strengthen the esteem of women in the workplace. Inforum recently expanded and created separate chapters in Lansing, mid-Michigan, and on this side of the state. The local group was formed last year.

“I’m looking forward to getting more involved. There is a strong list of board members or initiators of the group here in West Michigan. They do have an executive leadership program. They’re going to kick off what they’re calling their ‘first flight’ for the West Michigan chapter, and I’m going to be participating in that,” said Korn of Wednesday’s event.

“I think there are only about 30 women meeting in this initial training opportunity.”

Korn was born in Evanston, Ill., but was raised in East Grand Rapids, where she currently resides. She graduated from the Leadership Grand Rapids program and has earned a business degree with a major in hotel, restaurant and institutional management from MichiganStateUniversity. She admitted to having green-and-white blood flowing through her veins and to having an agonizing trip back from Spartan Stadium last month after her favorite football team lost a seemingly won game to Notre Dame.

“Oh, yeah … it was a disastrous experience,” she said, managing a chuckle. “To watch 70,000 people have the wind taken out of their sails was really an experience.”

When she isn’t following the Spartans or planning a new strategy for the bureau, Korn spends most of her time being a mom. Her daughter, Jenny, is a freshman at MSU, and her son, Will, just started high school this year. Both swim competitively and Korn attends the meets and cheers them on as only a mom can.

“I also like to be active. I have a membership at the downtown Y. I’m also a pretty avid outdoor walker and I think that has been a part of my life for the last 15 years,” she said.

As for her immediate future, Korn is looking forward to enriching her leadership abilities this week through the Inforum training, and then spending as much time as she possibly can over the next four years with Will.

“I want to enjoy my son as he is in high school because it goes by really quickly, and to be able to have enough time to share that experience with him,” she said.

And don’t be too surprised if Korn gets booted upstairs again in a few years, as her professional outlook is full of optimism.

“There is so much opportunity available here for us to fine tune and expand our approach that it’s exciting to see what we can do in 2007, because we’re having so much success in 2006.”    

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