(Daily Press (Victorville, CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 02--VICTORVILLE -- Geoff Hinds has been named the new CEO of the High Desert Event Center, home of the San Bernardino County Fair.
Hinds, 34, was recently selected by the fair board of directors and will replace the fair's interim CEO, William Blair, who took over after Ken Alstott resigned in 2013.
"I was raised by my grandparents, and my grandpa was the chief executive for the L.A. County Fair," Hinds said. "I spent most of my life at a variety of fairs, so I'm following in my grandfather's footsteps. It's almost like coming home."
An official with the 28th District Agricultural Association announced Hinds' new position by email last week. Hinds will make $8,000 a month, according to the board's January agenda.
"We were lucky to get someone with his background," said Becky Otwell, a fair board member. "He grew up in and around fairs and knows all about the business."
A graduate of Whittier College, where he studied international business and political science, Hinds served as manager for the Modesto Centre Plaza for two months before leaving in July.
The Modesto Bee reported that Hinds was hired as manager to run its downtown convention center and to "reverse the fortunes" of the center, which in recent years has required hefty subsidies from the city's general fund as booking revenues had fallen.
"It just wasn't the right fit for me," Hinds said. "It might have worked out if I stayed, but I wasn't the right person for the job."
Before Modesto, Hinds served as CEO and manager of the Tulare Country Fair for nearly five years, and he was supervisor of the San Mateo County Fair where he was also the fair and festivals manager.
In 2010, Hinds faced a financial situation that menaced his organization in Tulare. A former bank manager embezzled almost $700,000 from bank night deposits, including an undisclosed amount of fair revenue, according to a Visalia Times Delta report.
"The fair was financially challenged when I got there and this situation just made it worse," Hinds said. "The struggles began when the fair almost lost an entire fair during 9/11, and then this situation occurred."
Hinds said he helped rectify the financial situation by drawing new events and business partners, improving the "curb appeal" of the fair and promoting the fairgrounds as a year-round place to conduct events.
Part of Hinds' success in Tulare was an aggressive marketing program to reach various groups, including the "untapped Spanish-speaking market."
"We worked with the local Spanish-speaking radio stations and the Mexican consultant to create a very cool event for the 200th anniversary of Mexican Independence Day, which I was proud to be a part of," Hinds said. "We didn't alienate anyone, we just drew in those groups that had not been reached."
Hinds said the increased attendance raised revenue for the fair and the surrounding businesses, something Otwell believes is needed in the High Desert.
"We've gotten away from being involved with the community," Otwell said. "Now we have the opportunity to go out and draw in the many diverse groups that are in the area."
Hinds said he heard about the job after talking to Alstott, who is now the CEO of the Cow Palace in Daly City, near San Francisco.
"Increasing revenue and taking care of an aging facility that is 67 years old is going to be the biggest challenge," Hinds said. "The good thing is that former leadership and the board, staff and volunteers have done a fantastic job caring for and operating the center."
Having barely settled in, Hinds said he didn't have exact budget figures but indicated that the fair was in "good shape" with some reserve funds.
"It will be a time of research and evaluation, not the new guy coming in and changing everything," Hinds said. "Our fair starts in May and I'm excited about getting out and meeting the community."
Visit www.sbc fairevents.com for more information about this year's fair and the event center.
Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227 or at RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com.
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