All The Right Moves

June 9, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — He isn’t in the Guinness Book of World Records, at least not yet.

But Eddie Tadlock could be in the running for the “individual who has lived in the most places in one lifetime” award, if Guinness actually keeps such a count.

When Tadlock agreed in March to become the SMG assistant general manager of DeVos Place, Grand Rapids was about to become the 27th city he would live in. That’s quite a moving feat, in more ways than one, for someone who turned 45 recently.

Packing up and heading out has become old hat for Tadlock, something he has truly done his entire life. Just two weeks after he was born, in Pine Bluff, Ark., he and his family were off to the other side of the planet.

“My father was in the Air Force, so right after I was born we moved to Japan. I’ve lived in various places around the globe and around the states. So when people ask where I’m from, I say I was born in Pine Bluff, but I’m really a citizen of the earth,” he said.

“The last count is 27,” Tadlock said of all the places he has called home.

His most recent move brought him here from Lynnwood, Wash., where he managed the Lynnwood Convention Center just north of Seattle, and he admitted that moving cross-country is not even remotely close to being a traumatic experience for him.

Eddie Tadlock
Company: SMG
Title: Assistant General Manager, DeVos Place
Age: 45
Birthplace: Pine Bluff, Ark.
Residence: Grand Rapids
Family: Single
Biggest career break: Getting on the managerial track as a young man of 25 when he was hired to oversee events in an Orlando facility.

“Where do I need to be next week?” he joked. “Before Seattle I was in Orlando, Florida. Before that I was in Boston. Before that I lived on the West Coast for a short time, in the San Diego and L.A. area. So I’ve got all four corners covered.

“I just hadn’t spent a whole lot of time in the middle, so here I am.”

Not only does Tadlock now live in the middle of the country, he also lives in the middle of the city. For a guy who has done a lot of traveling in his life, he said he isn’t a fan of long commutes and prefers to live close to where he works. Maybe that’s because he has traveled so much and maybe that’s why he has a home in a neighborhood not far from downtown.

“I’ve really enjoyed (Grand Rapids) so far. I haven’t been able to explore it as much as I would have liked to, thus far. There is time for that, though,” he said.

“I always say wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home. I’ve lived in smaller cities and larger cities, and each and every place that I’ve lived had its own unique characteristics and charm. I have been pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the people, the cleanliness of the city, and all the possibilities of things that are happening here. I’m having a great time.”

In addition to living in a lot of places, Tadlock had a lot of careers before he really settled into facilities management about 20 years ago. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in mass communications and then served in the Marine Corps. He then worked as a graphic designer and managed a few restaurants until his big break — a life-changing event — came in 1988 when he became the events coordinator at the Orlando Centroplex.

“I really had no experience then in the industry. John Christensen was the director at the time, and he gave me the break by giving me the keys to the theater and telling me to manage the theater. He said, ‘Call me if you have any questions. Oh, by the way, we’re building a new arena and you’re pretty much on your own,’” said Tadlock.

“Talk about just jumping in headfirst. I had the symphony and the opera to deal with and our Broadway series. I did that for a few months, and John said, ‘Why don’t you go over and run the convention center. Why don’t you run the stadium, and why don’t you go to the baseball stadium,’ which was next to the football stadium. ‘Go spend some time out at the racetrack. Now that the arena is opening, we want you to come and spend some time here.’ So I really got a lot of first-hand experience in lots of different venues, and that was my big break.”

Tadlock has been able to parlay the valuable crash course in facility management that Christensen gave him into solid positions throughout the country. He first connected with SMG in 2004 when the Philadelphia-based management firm tabbed him to run the new Lynnwood building. So DeVos Place is his second SMG-run building and he said he is very impressed with the convention center.

“This is one of the best-kept secrets in the world, and hopefully I can help change that. It’s a beautiful venue. Everything that one would want in a meeting facility is here. We have the performing arts center, as well. All the clients that I’ve met with since I’ve been here have been surprised. They’ve never been here before, and they go, ‘Wow, how come I didn’t know about this place?’ That was my reaction, too, when I first came here,” he said.

Tadlock has more than a professional interest in DeVos Performance Hall, the performing arts center in DeVos Place that he alluded to, as he admitted to being a big fan of the arts. In his spare time, he takes in as many performances as he can.

“I like music. I like theater. I like the outdoors. I won’t call myself a Renaissance man, but I like good food, I like dining, I like cooking — just enjoying all that a city has to offer.”

Tadlock also enjoys volunteering. In Lynnwood, for example, he was active in a number of civic and professional organizations such as United Way and Big Brothers Big Sisters, where he was a director. And he plans to be active here, once he gets settled in at home and at work.

“Absolutely, that’s part of our mission. You have to become part of a community because the community can become your big fan and can help you sell the destination,” he said.

“But it’s just practical sense to get involved in different civic and charitable organizations in the community. It’s something that I’ve always done, not just because it’s for work. I grew up in a family that was big on volunteering and giving back. It’s part of my DNA, I guess.”

Tadlock said what he appreciates most about managing a public venue like DeVos Place is his job keeps the next day from being just like the last one. He said he regularly gets to meet with people from different backgrounds who work in different professions, and the constant newness of his daily schedule makes those meetings an educational experience for him.

“There are some amazing things that you can learn just from the events that are in the building,” he said.

So far, Tadlock seems to have made all the right moves, regardless of the count. As for his immediate future, he said he will dedicate his efforts to see that DeVos Place’s well-kept secret gets out so the convention center can get the national recognition it deserves.

“I think it has a lot to offer. Professionally, I would like to increase the visibility of our venues here and put Grand Rapids on the meetings map. That’s a big challenge. There are lots of new venues out there, bigger venues, and some very competitive markets,” he said.

“But we are really on par with any venue in the country, with the package of services and resources that we have here. So I’m excited about that. That is a personal challenge for me, as well as a professional challenge.”

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