Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau names Julie Calvert new president and CEO

'Julie's track record is what Cincinnati needs'

CINCINNATI -- The next president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau is a Cincinnati native with a passion for promoting her hometown.

She's also a familiar face in the region's tourism industry.

Julie Calvert, 46, was a senior executive at the convention and visitors bureau from 2001 through 2016. Soon she will return to lead the organization. She told WCPO her exact start date is still being determined.

"I love Cincinnati, and I've had the privilege of spending my career promoting the people and organizations who make it such a special place," Calvert said in a news release announcing her hiring. "It's an exciting time to lead the CVB, and I can't wait to get started with our board and executive committee to cast the vision and map our most urgent priorities."

Out-of-town visitors are big business for the region. Greater Cincinnati attracts more than 26 million visitors each year, and those visitors spend more than $5 billion annually across the region, according to convention and visitors bureau data.

CVB board chairman Jim McGraw announced the pick Friday morning. Calvert's hiring comes after a months-long search by Minneapolis-based SearchWide that began after the retirement of former CEO Dan Lincoln in December.

"This position has an opportunity to shape the vision of the Cincinnati destination for decades to come, and we had to get it absolutely right," McGraw said in the news release. "With Julie, we get a leader with a proven track record of driving destination reputation and economic impact. We get a passionate advocate for our region who understands our business, government and civic landscapes and how to mobilize the decision-makers who guide them. Moreover, we get an expert strategist who appreciates the power of collaboration and creative problem-solving to move the Cincinnati region forward."

Calvert steps into the role at a time of intense public discussion about construction of a new FC Cincinnati soccer stadium, a possible expansion of the Duke Energy Convention Center Downtown, and renovation of both a new headquarters hotel and U.S. Bank Arena.

"Cincinnati is at a critical time in our history as our destination wrestles with infrastructure issues to stay competitive in attracting conventions and leisure travelers," Mayor John Cranley said in the release. "Julie understands all the destination issues we face as a region and is uniquely suited to lead us in overcoming the challenges and capitalizing on every opportunity."

Hamilton County funds virtually all the operations of the convention and visitors bureau through its hotel tax, and Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Todd Portune offered his congratulations in a written statement.

"Julie's experience in Ohio and understanding of the inner workings of the CVB will place her in good stead as she engages local and regional leaders," Portune said. "It's critical to gain their consensus and match the CVB's work with the county's agenda and our regional vision on jobs creation, big box project completion and the county's commitment to becoming the beacon of multiculturalism in the Midwest."

Calvert is currently the founder and executive director of Source Cincinnati, an initiative dedicated to telling the region's story in a way that's designed to attract more positive attention, talent and investment. She told WCPO that Source Cincinnati would name Susan Lomax, a current staff member, as interim executive director, adding: "Source will continue and be as strong as ever."

Calvert grew up in Finneytown and graduated from Finneytown High School. She studied English and journalism at Miami University, where she earned her bachelor's degree. She lived in Boston and Cleveland after college and worked in media as a reporter and editor before beginning a career in public relations and marketing.

Jill Meyer, president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, said in a statement that Calvert's collaborative style and creativity would serve the region well.

"Julie's track record is what Cincinnati needs to drive continued success while taking the convention and visitors bureau in our region to the next level," Meyer said.

Calvert and her husband, Chris, live in Anderson Township with their two sons.

She stressed she will work quickly to create a "comprehensive, collaborative business plan for 2018. The goal will be to work with local hotel operators and the Duke Energy and Sharonville convention centers to increase convention business.

"Working alongside our community partners, I'm ready to get to work," she said in the release.

More information about the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau is available online.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region -- to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may. To reach her, email lucy.may@wcpo.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.

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