Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Growing IAAPA's Grassroots Program

Businessmen and women cannot afford to be political spectators. IAAPA’s government relations department serves as your eyes, ears, and voice in Washington, D.C. so you can concentrate on running your businesses. IAAPA monitors U.S. federal legislation, meets with federal lawmakers, and briefs IAAPA members on federal policy that could affect the amusement park and attractions industry.

Sometimes in politics, issues are identified weeks or months before they come before Congress. In these situations, IAAPA’s government relations department has time to make appointments for lobbying visits with members of Congress, or add the issue to a list of things members should discuss during legislative fly-ins.

Oftentimes in Washington, though, issues blow up overnight. When this happens, IAAPA’s lobbying strategy needs to be more rapid than traditional efforts, and we need members to quickly reach out to elected officials and let them know how proposed solutions will affect you.

Earlier this month, the Senate Finance Committee considered imposing FICA taxes on several temporary visa programs as revenue generators for the farm bill. This proposal would have affected many IAAPA members who rely on temporary workers to staff their businesses during the peak season.

IAAPA’s government relations department heard about this proposal on a Monday evening. On Tuesday we developed and launched a targeted grassroots campaign of IAAPA members in key states contacting senators on the committee and explaining the detrimental effects of this proposal to the attractions industry. By Wednesday evening, the proposal was defeated.

Everything that IAAPA lobbyists say sounds better coming from a constituent. You are the voter, the person who on Election Day determines if a member of Congress stays or goes.

We encourage you to join our Grassroots Action and Information Network (GAIN) and be among the first to know about federal legislation critical to your business. GAIN members receive insider legislative updates from IAAPA’s GR staff, and are provided with the materials to take action when needed. You can register for GAIN by visiting our web site or contacting me directly at sthienel@iaapa.org.

Monday, October 29, 2007

An Institute Emerges

Last week marked my three-year anniversary of working for IAAPA, and as it so happens, three years’ experience is a significant figure for a new program the association is launching this month at Attractions Expo 2007.

It’s called the Institute for Emerging Leaders, and is geared specifically for people like me (minimum three years' management experience)—not straight out of college, but not a longstanding veteran, either. My colleagues in the building are quite excited about this gig, because it hits midlevel people like us right where we live and work: We don’t handle the big, big decisions, but we have enough responsibility to make a significant impact on our organizations (at least I’d like to think I make an impact …).

The speaker lineup is absolutely killer, people who are at the top of their fields but haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be a little further down the food chain. I just met San Diego Zoo’s Ted Molter a few weeks back for a FUNWORLD Q&A (look for that in January); he’s a down-to-earth guy who blew my mind with some of the cutting-edge marketing he’s doing (a MySpace page for an ape?!?).

As it’s been described to me, the Institute is a one-stop shop for information on the industry, a holistic experience for people on the way up, or those who may have just moved into the amusement industry from elsewhere and want to find out what this business is all about. Operations, marketing, finance … the works.

If you want more information, you can check the program out here or drop my buddy Cam a line at ckiosoglous@IAAPA.org.

Friday, October 26, 2007

UPDATE: SoCal Parks Re-opening Today

There's some relatively good news coming out of Southern California today, as the wildfires are calming down and residents are starting to return to their neighborhoods. As you can read in this Associated Press story, though, what they find when they return could be devastating.

As far as our industry facilities are concerned, things seem to be OK. According to their respective web sites, Legoland California, San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, SeaWorld San Diego, and Six Flags Magic Mountain are all planning to open today after being closed most of the week.

SeaWorld San Diego's David Koontz called me last night and had this to say:

"I'm happy to report all of our animals did very well. There was no impact on them whatsoever, and we're looking forward to opening the park again to the public."

SeaWorld also posted this message on its web site:

SeaWorld was closed Tuesday, Oct. 23 through Thursday, Oct. 25 due to the firestorms burning throughout San Diego County. While there were no fires in the park’s vicinity, many SeaWorld team members were affected by the fires, road evacuations and road closures. The park also was adhering to requests by city officials to keep non-essential vehicles off the roadways.

The park’s animals are in good health and the fires caused no impact on our infrastructure or ability to operate.

Our thoughts are with all of our team members and their families, and all San Diego County residents who were affected by these fires.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bang the Gong: Attractions Expo 2007 Hits 500,000 Net Square Feet

4 p.m. is the most exciting part of my day. Why? It’s the time every day when we do our booth assignments for IAAPA Attractions Expo 2007 here in the convention department on the third floor of the IAAPA office. We all huddle around the huge floor plan on the wall and mark in red all of the booths that were contracted by new exhibitors that day. Monday’s booth assignment meeting came a bit early, however, due to the fact that at 10 a.m. we surpassed the 500,000 net square feet of booth space reserved mark! This was cause for a mini-celebration, and we couldn’t wait until the afternoon to toast this seemingly unreachable number. Hitting the 500K plateau makes Expo 2007 IAAPA’s biggest show since we opened the expansion building at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center in 2003.

So needless to say it’s been an exciting several months up in our corner of the IAAPA universe. The 4 p.m. booth assignment meeting has at times drawn spectators from other departments who want to get in on the fun as well. And even those who don’t join in get to hear us bang the gong that Pete Barto (head of the sales team and, thus, my boss) brought back from the Asian Expo in Bangkok this year. There is something very special about seeing the trade show floor go to red and get closer and closer to a sell out.

The rest of the day, we work to turn the floor blue, which is the color we mark a booth once it is on hold for an exhibitor; hopefully we change the blue to red at 4 p.m. once we have contracts in hand. We all have headsets for our phones and at times you can see us all standing in the hallway in front of the floor plan talking to exhibitors with our trusty blue grease pencils at the ready. It is actually a pretty funny sight for those who happen to find their way to our corner of the office. We can get pretty loud up here, too, especially when we all are yelling back and forth from our various offices. Diane Vidoni and Melissa Charity, who handle operations for the show, get to share in these conversations due to proximity, but not necessarily out of interest. Yes, we realize we have phones and could call one another, but that takes too much time … haha! I am sure the communications department, which has the honor of being right below us, has had the urge to take a broom to the ceiling at times. We are just having way too much fun up here. I guess that is what happens when you have a group of people who really embrace the idea of a sales “team” and who get to sell booth space for such a fun show!

We are looking forward to getting on site in Orlando to see how our big wall-size coloring board of a floor plan will translate to real booths. We are counting down the days to move-in and look forward to seeing everyone there!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Thinking of California

Speaking on behalf of everyone at IAAPA, our thoughts are with our friends and colleagues in Southern California as they deal with these horrendous wildfires (check out this story for more information on the situation as it relates to the amusement and attractions industry).

We hope the fires are controlled soon and that your businesses and families do not suffer because of them. And once everything has settled down, we look forward to hearing your stories and learning from your examples on how to deal with extreme circumstances and under extraordinary pressure in a short amount of time.

Let us know if there is anything we can do to help. If anyone from SoCal reading this can give us first-hand updates on how things are going, please share in the comments or e-mail me at jschoolfield@IAAPA.org and I'll post them later.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Drum Roll, Please …

Welcome to “In the Queue,” IAAPA’s new blog. We’re firing this up for all kinds of future uses, but more than anything we’d like it to be a place where industry professionals can share ideas and communicate with each other and us here at IAAPA.
Several people from our staff will be highlighting goings-on in the industry or inside the walls of the association’s Alexandria, Virginia, home (which is within shouting distance of the White House in Washington, D.C.—I ride past the Washington Monument every day to and from the office). We’ll also be giving you some stuff that gets squeezed out of FUNWORLD, and updating previous stories if we get some new information. We’ll also be asking some straightforward questions from time to time, seeking your input.

But that’s all coming. Right now, everyone here is in full-on Trade Show Mode, as IAAPA Attractions Expo 2007 is less than a month away (Nov. 12-16). What amazes me about this place is how genuinely excited people are for the show. My co-workers are really and truly motivated to do something great—not just because it’s their job, but because they actually (gasp!) enjoy what they’re producing. It’s quite refreshing. Personally, I cannot wait to see the floor when it’s unveiled in all its glory that Tuesday morning, and other people here have told me the same thing.

IAAPA members will be receiving the November (double) issue of FUNWORLD soon—watch for our official Expo preview section (new this year). I have a story in there that talks about the excitement people have for the show’s return to Orlando, and our sales manager, Pete Barto (who has basically talked to every exhibitor coming to the show at one point or another), told me people are taking booth designs up a notch. There will be more on the Expo to come, but right now seemingly everyone—inside and outside of IAAPA Central—is pumped for the show.
And speaking of FUNWORLD, keep an eye out for our slightly redesigned cover. I know it’s impossible to miss seeing as it’s, you know, the cover and everything, but we’ve tweaked it a little bit. Also, it features an absolutely killer photo, but I won’t spoil the details here.

One final note: We’re looking forward to hearing from people as part of this venture, so please comment early and often. The idea is to keep this environment positive (unlike most of the Internet). We have some legalese about rules and regulations for comments, but in general just try and keep it constructive and professional, and everyone should be fine.

Here’s your initial In the Queue contributor roster:
Amanda Charney, FUNWORLD Editor, acharney@IAAPA.org
Sarah Gmyr, IAAPA Media Relations Manager, sgmyr@IAAPA.org
Marion Hixon, IAAPA Communications Coordinator, mhixon@IAAPA.org
Cam Kiosoglous, IAAPA Education Program Manager, ckiosoglous@IAAPA.org
Deana Martin, IAAPA Exhibit Sales and Services Executive, dmartin@IAAPA.org
Jeremy Schoolfield, FUNWORLD Features Editor, jschoolfield@IAAPA.org
Heidi Schroeder, IAAPA Membership Marketing Manager, hschroeder@IAAPA.org
Stephanie Thienel, IAAPA Government Relations and Safety Services Manager, sthienel@IAAPA.org

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rules for Posting Comments on IAAPA: In the Queue

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