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Facility management veteran reflects on where it all began

Jamey Canfield

Jamey Canfield, executive director of the Palm Springs Convention Center and Bureau of Tourism

Located within California’s Coachella Valley, Palm Springs was once the playground for movie stars and world leaders. Still a premier resort destination, Palm Springs has the intimacy and charm of a smaller town with the amenities and entertainment of a much larger city. Boasting 354 days of sunshine each year, the city is situated at the foot of majestic mountain peaks rising 10,000 feet above the valley floor, amidst palm groves, native plants and wildlife, and legendary hot springs.

Palm Springs had been a constant in the life of Jamey Canfield, executive director of the Palm Springs Convention Center and Bureau of Tourism. It is the place where he met his wife Karen twenty-five years ago, honeymooned with her two years later and started work at the Palm Springs Convention Center just four months afterwards in 1987 where he served as the operations director for the center’s opening.

Jamey laughed when he looked back to 1987 and his first month at the convention center.

“I started December 3 and our first event was a New Year’s Eve party. The center received a temporary certificate of occupancy December 21 and we took possession of the building as we were unloading equipment for the event.”
Jamey smiled as he recalled the planned seven-course dinner and eleven musical acts, all being recorded for a seven camera TV shoot.
“There were around 1500 people and the building had never been used. Our team discovered things about the building at the event. We learned a lot about how to ensure a successful event set-up and I still draw on that experience every day.”

Though Jamey has been in the hospitality and event industry for almost thirty years, he was born and raised far from his current home of Palm Springs in the Cincinnati suburb of Fort Thomas, Ky.

Growing up, Jamey wanted to be a pharmacist and was drawn to the technical knowledge, personal interaction and quick thinking necessary for a career in pharmacy. Jamey left Kentucky at the age of 21 for his first job at a resort management company on Catalina Island, and realized that the same traits he had appreciated about pharmacy made facility management a good fit.

Following his start on Catalina Island, Jamey spent time at a banquet facility in Carson, Calif., where he first started learning about facility management and focusing on the space rather than just events. After leaving Carson, Jamey arrived in Palm Springs in time to open the Palm Springs Convention Center and later his facility management experience and expertise grew with management positions at the Long Beach Convention Center, Broward County Convention Center and Pasadena Convention Center before returning to the Palm Springs Convention Center in his current role.

Jamey’s first lesson in facility management came long before his arrival in Palm Springs when he was a teenager in Kentucky. On a Saturday night during Memorial Day weekend in 1977, Jamey learned about the importance of fire safety and the impacts of poor application of the fire code. In the nearby town of Southgate, Ky., the third deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history claimed 165 lives at the Beverly Hills Supper Club and Jamey’s hometown gymnasium became a temporary morgue filled with clergy, the Red Cross, law enforcement, fire officials and many others who volunteered to assist with the identification of partygoers who couldn’t escape the fire.

Jamey was one of those volunteers and the memory of the devastation of the fire for the victims and their families has stayed with him and impressed upon him the importance of fire safety.

When asked what lessons he would pass along to industry newcomers and students interested in joining the events world, Jamey emphasized the importance of experience. “You can start as early as high school on the prom committee or in college producing an event. Hands-on experience makes you valuable. Get a part time job or an internship,” Jamey recommended. “It gives you the ability to speak intelligently and builds your resume.”

Jamey smiled when he mentioned his current role in Palm Springs. With responsibilities including destination marketing for leisure and convention travel, media relations and operation of the convention center, Jamey is excited to start each day. He laughed when he said his favorite part of the job is when the project or event he is working on is moving forward and thriving. “I like riding the wave of activity behind a project, whether it is a marketing plan, an event or a catered dinner. Those are the moments I long for,” Jamey said with a smile.

In addition to promotion of the city of Palm Springs, Jamey also works closely with the Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention Visitors Authority, providing marketing for Palm Springs and seven other cities in the Coachella Valley.

Only blocks away from the center of downtown, the Palm Springs Convention Center offers 120,000 square feet of exhibit space, including a 20,000 square foot ballroom and a carpeted exhibit hall divisible into five sections. The recent expansion included re-orienting the front of the building to face west towards dramatic views of the surrounding mountains. High speed internet access is available throughout the facility and an 18,000 square foot lobby offers panoramic mountain views.

Jamey has a lot of reasons to be excited about Palm Springs, including the recent expansion of the convention center and downtown hotels. “It is great to be back and participate in the renaissance in Palm Springs. The product lives up to its reputation and name. I am very excited to be back in Palm Springs.”

Julie Pazina, National Sales Manager for Edlen Electrical Exhibition Services. Based in Las Vegas, Edlen Electrical Exhibition Services (www.edlen.com) is the leading independent temporary utility contractor for the tradeshow, convention and special event industry. National Sales Manager Julie Pazina can be reached at julie@edlen.com.


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