The Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) plays a pivotal role in the city when it comes to drawing high profile events and meetings. Its conception and construction were the brainchild of a community leader who saw the value that the largest convention center in Canada would bring to Toronto.
That’s why Toronto-based industry leaders want to honor the memory of John O. Maxwell by inspiring the next generation of events professionals with Toronto Business Event Professional Scholarships.
Maxwell was the MTCC’s first president and CEO, holding that post until he retired in 1997. Following his death last year, the Toronto meetings and conventions community donated $25,000 in Maxwell’s honor to the Professional Convention Management Association Education Foundation and will provide four scholarships, said Heidi Welker, the vice president of marketing for Toronto-based Freeman Audio Visual Canada, who is coordinating the donations.
Maxwell “helped the government understand the importance of tourism and the conventions and meetings industry,” Welker said.
The PCMA Education Foundation scholarships, set to be awarded this fall, will provide attendees with a one-year membership to PCMA, and registration and housing costs at PCMA’s 2018 Convening Leaders Conference to be held Jan. 7-10 in Nashville. The scholarships will also provide free use of PCMA’s online training tool, Business Event Bootcamp, which covers everything from digital events and revenue generation to marketing and meeting design concepts.
The goal of the scholarships, said Barry Smith, the current president and CEO of the MTCC, is to encourage and motivate event professionals interested in becoming Toronto industry leaders.
“This industry is becoming much more complex,” he said. “We want people who are studying this and building a career in this area from the get-go.”
The scholarships will help awardees get exposure to cutting edge trends and strategies, find mentors, network with colleagues and deepen their education around the market, he said.
Maxwell, who spent 16 years at the helm of the MTCC and was also a former assistant deputy minister of tourism, was known for his hard-driving ambition and strategic thinking. He was a powerful force behind the convention center’s creation and realized early on the economic benefits it could bring to Toronto.
Maxwell established the convention center with the agreement that once it was up and running, it would not require annual government funding from regular grants or hotel taxes, Smith said, and he was especially proud of its in-house food and beverage service as an antidote to “the rubber chicken circuit,” Smith said.
That kind of visionary direction is still needed, Smith said. “We want to create new and significant leaders who will have a profound impact on Toronto,” he said.
Scholarships through the PCMA Education Foundation can help accomplish that, he said. Those who receive scholarships and go to PCMA’s conference will get training and contacts they can’t get elsewhere, he said.
“Why would we reinvent the wheel?” Smith asked. Those awarded scholarships “will be exposed to new colleagues, meet potential employers, and see if this is an industry where they want to put a stake in the ground.”