Jim Rice, CDME, makes a difference in Little Rock | By Jack P. Hagler, ASTC LEADERS AT ALL LEVELS Jim Rice went to work as an event coordinator with the Little Rock

Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) in 1980. At the time, the city was building the Statehouse Convention Center and an adjoining con- vention hotel.

“I made the decision to get into this business on a freezing winter

morning, fresh out of college, sitting on the banks of the Arkansas River watching them implode the two ancient, condemned hotels that paved the way for the convention business to return to Little Rock,” Rice remembered. “I just knew in my heart I wanted to be a part of that renaissance.” Jim left LRCVB in 1985 to navigate his way through, and learn,

   - rent position. Now 38 years after that freezing winter morning, Jim is responsible for all city owned facilities operated by LRCVB including Statehouse Convention Center, Robinson Center Performance Hall and Conference Center, First Security Amphitheater, River Market - holders of two city-owned convention hotel properties. Jim feels his professional contributions to the community are made

through enhancing the quality of life for the citizens of Little Rock and enhancing the Little Rock experience for visitors.  division for many quality-of-life aspects within our city,” he said. “Con- ventions, tourism, destination marketing, and quality entertainment all fall within our organization’s wheelhouse. The city, our board and our citizens insist that options and opportunities are provided to all of our constituents in a diverse and professional manner.” A stroll down Markham Street and President Clinton Avenue re-

veals obvious successful results. The pedestrian activation of down- town through conventions, performing arts, and redevelopment has been astounding thanks to the LRCVB team. When it comes to personal philosophy, Jim’s is simple: “Hire smart,

plan your work, and work your plan.” Jim’s advice for up-and-coming leaders? “The most important thing that you do is to hire the right - pecially in the management and supervisory roles. When you lose a  Manage those departments yourself for as long as it takes; you will never receive a better education anywhere than doing the day-to-day operation yourself for your departments.” Jim credits constant communication at every level as his best tool for dealing with his co-workers. “We meet a lot, maybe at times too much, but we have a lot of ground to cover across a lot of real estate and all pieces and parts must coordinate seamlessly,” he said. “This is across   stakeholders. It helps tremendously that I share most, if not all, of this philosophy with my boss.” IVAM has been important to Jim. He has taken part in many of the

educational opportunities over the years including annual conferences and trade shows, PAMC, CCC, AVSS, and Senior Executive Sym-

 participate as well. “There have always been takeaways from those opportunities over

the years,” he said. “During our $70 million performing arts center renovation, we took the entire team: architects, contractors, consul- tants and owners’ team to the IAVM VenueConnect Annual Conference and Trade Show in New Orleans. This gave us all the opportunity to   the hall. It also gave our professional team the opportunity to meet and visit face-to-face with many of the vendors who eventually bid on this project. It was a good exercise – and very enjoyable.” When asked about the future of assembly venues, Jim sees the big-

gest change as the shift in public awareness and the cost of venue se- curity measures to protect patrons and assets. “It is a scary world out there and public facilities MUST respond accordingly.” Another change has been the social responsibility of operating

green. Jim is particularly proud of this contribution. “Our recent $70 million renovation and renaissance of a 1939 performing arts center was successful in opening with LEED Gold designation. These mea- sures are critically important as well as simply the right thing to do.” When asked if he had any “I wish I had…” or “I’m glad I did…” stories or moments he would like to share, Jim said, “I am glad I left LRCVB and experienced life in the hospitality business on several         - agement of varied public, and private facilities. Chasing the dream,  aspects of the venue and tourism business. I was fortunate to get back to LRCVB where I started, and I felt much better prepared to craft a career.”

When Jim is not working (It appears to this writer that Jim is AL-

 golf. “I am passionate about all of them, though they pale in compar- ison to time with my two granddaughters who also live in Little Rock. I am truly blessed.”

Jim is the 2016 Inductee to the Arkansas Hospitality Association

Hall of Fame and the 2017 Tourism Person of the Year for the Ar- kansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism. “Whatever success I have achieved in this industry is a direct result of the management team around me,” he said. In particular, Jim credits two wonderful bosses: Barry Travis, CEO

of LRCVB for three decades, who hired Jim twice and mentored him for years, and Gretchen Hall, the current LRCVB CEO. “I mentored Gretchen early in her career at LRCVB. She has been my boss for almost 10 years now. Both were and are long time IAVM members. I owe each of them more than I could ever possibly repay.” FM

Jack Hagler is a Partner with Schuler Shook Theatre Planners | Lighting Designers and is a member of the IAVM Editorial Advisory Committee. Jack has known and worked with Jim and other members of the LRCVB team for almost 20 years. Jim’s philosophy and contributions truly show in his work. It has been a pleasure working with my friend Jim and all my friends at LRCVB.


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