Minnesota is known for many things—its lakes, its bikeability, its vibrant arts scene—but the population of event-planning professionals is just as noteworthy, if less visible. The Minnesota Chapter of Meetings Professionals International (MPI MN) is the ninth largest in the world. Robert Payne, regional director of sales and marketing, CSM Corporation, is partly responsible for that.

A graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth, Payne majored in accounting and became a CPA. He later worked as a buyer with a number of retail companies, then moved into hospitality in 2008. Payne joined MPI MN in 2009; initially, he volunteered on the membership committee and later moved up to the board of directors. Currently, he is the president-elect.

“It’s a strong base of meeting planners and suppliers, and we share a passion for the meetings and events industry,” Payne says.

Established in 1978, MPI MN connects planners, suppliers, and students throughout Minnesota. The organization boasts an average of 160 attendees at monthly meetings; special events are attended in even greater numbers.

Involvement in MPI MN is self-driven. Members can do as little as attend monthly meetings to network and take advantage of the educational opportunities, or go further and join a committee. “It’s what you want to put into it,” Payne says of MPI MN membership. “As a volunteer, you can have hands-on experience, plan educational events, or work on membership, sponsorship and fundraising. There are so many career enhancement possibilities through the organization. You’re growing yourself along with 450 other chapter members.”

MPI MN has had a recent increase in the number of members, a development Payne attributes to reaching out to organizations and corporations to recruit new members. When a new hotel opens up, he reaches out to find suppliers to add to MPI MN’s roster. To retain members, Payne ensures they know the value of the membership, from the educational content of the meetings to the marketplace visibility for suppliers’ products. MPI MN has also been reaching out to other organizations to collaborate on events, such as a joint meeting with the International Special Events Society (ISES) at the James J. Hill Center.

Payne particularly enjoys serving on the board. “It’s a big responsibility,” says Payne, who adds that being nominated for the board was a highlight of his involvement with MPI. “Every board meeting we had, our mission was that the chapter be positioned better.”

While Payne isn’t likely to sit back and declare “mission accomplished,” he is proud of the progress MPI has made. “We have a really engaged chapter,” he says.

For more than 100 years, the Dayton’s building has been an important piece of Minnesota’s culture and economy as the home to Dayton’s and Macy’s department stores. The department stores served as anchors for the downtown retail and business district. Now, the landmark building at 700 Nicollet in downtown Minneapolis is being reinvented for the 21st century through a $350 million historic redevelopment. 

 

League City CVB manager Stephanie Polk shares her career journey.

Originally from Kentwood, Louisiana, Stephanie Polk, TDM, CTE, first made her mark on the travel and tourism industry as director of marketing for the Beaumont Convention & Visitors Bureau. There, she helped to elevate the city as a destination for recreation travelers and business groups. Wowed by her accomplishments, in 2020, League City brought her on board to lead its marketing efforts. She shares with us highlights and advice from her experience in the industry. 

 

The CDC defines close contact as within six feet or less, for 15 minutes or more with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. At gatherings of many kinds, contact tracing is used to trace the people that someone has come into contact with, before they learn that they have tested positive. This allows the people that the sick person came into contact with to be aware of the situation, and to make health-informed choices.