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Visitors Bureau leader invites all to enjoy area sites

2/28/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

Gregg Mervis, an 18-year veteran of the Akron/Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau, has been leading it and the John S. Knight Center as president and CEO since February 2012.
Photo courtesy of the Akron/Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau
DOWNTOWN AKRON — For the past year, Gregg Mervis has been leading the Akron/Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau and John S. Knight Center as president and CEO.

“We’re here to attract meetings, conferences and conventions to Akron and Summit County,” he said.

The bureau is an economic generator for the community, as visitors spend money on car rentals and in hotels, restaurants and retail establishments, according to Mervis.

The numbers aren’t yet in for 2012, but in 2011, that amounted to $1.2 billion in direct sales, 21,000 jobs in Summit County and $51 million in local tax generation, he said.

“Those are real dollars, employing real people and having a real impact on this community,” he said.

Mervis said visitors represent “clean dollars” in that they don’t tax the infrastructure — they don’t need schools, jails, trash pickup or the like — but they leave an impact on local business and job creation.

The John S. Knight Center and Visitors Bureau are separate business units that work in tandem, according to Mervis.

Simply stated, while the Visitors Bureau is engaged in attracting events to Summit County, the Knight Center is engaged in attracting events to its building, he said.

Mervis took the reins as interim president of both in February 2012, when longtime leader Susan Hamo passed away.

“She was a tremendous leader, mentor and friend, respected in the community and throughout the country within our industry,” he said. “Susan’s work ethic and passion helped formulate the way that I process things.”

Following a national search for Hamo’s replacement, Mervis was named official president and CEO this past August. He’s been with the bureau 18 years, he said.

Mervis was born and raised in West Akron, and prior to coming to the bureau, he got his start cleaning at Quaker Square in 1981, worked his way through the front desk and into sales and left there in 1995 as director of sales and marketing, he said.

At the bureau, he started as director of sales, became vice president in 1997 and was named Chief Operating Officer in 2008.

“I don’t know every nook and cranny, but I know a lot of them, and I’m very proud to be able to represent all that Akron and Summit County has to offer,” he said. “Often local residents take for granted or are not completely aware how much there is to see and do in the community.

“Hopefully, not only do they visit that attraction or attend that show, they talk to friends both locally and from out of town to let them know all the wonderful assets here in Summit County,” added Mervis. “In this place we call home, we have a dynamic, inviting, safe and appealing destination for visitors of every kind, every season, any day.”

Mervis and his family, which includes his wife, Terrill, of 22 years and daughter, Grace, 10, also enjoy riding the rails occasionally, he said.

“The ability to ride your bike on the Ohio & Erie Canalway and get on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and return to your destination on this beautiful train for only $3 makes for a great day,” he said.

For local residents looking for something to do this weekend or in the future, the bureau’s online and printed resources are abundant, he said.

In addition to Facebook, the bureau is online at www.akron.travel, where people can find information about attractions and upcoming events, including “experiential travel” ideas, which Mervis described as “ways to get involved and engaged in an attraction, rather than just going to an attraction.”

Website visitors also can access suggested itineraries, a video tour of Greater Akron, enter to win a monthly get-away contest and find links to attractions, restaurants, shops and more.

The bureau can also be found on Twitter at www.twitter.com/akronsummitcvb.

One of the bureau’s major publications, the Northeast Ohio Akron Summit Visitors Guide, comes out each May, gets mailed to 100,000 people, is available at travel information centers and is fully online, Mervis said.

The John S. Knight Center also has its own website, www.johnsknightcenter.org, which provides access to public events taking place there.

Events taking place at the center in March include a classic car auction March 16, a Rubber City Roller Girls bout March 23, the Seek the Light Search for the Truth Sixth Annual Expo March 23-24 and the Northern Ohio Bibliophilic Society Akron Book Fair and Paper Sale March 29.

In addition to their websites, people can also get information from the bureau by calling 330-374-7560 or 800-245-4254 or by stopping by the offices in the John S. Knight Center, 77 E. Mill St., Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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