Mark Zimmerman, general manager of the Georgia World Congress Center, has a big smile, an easygoing personality and a 3.9 million square-foot convention complex to manage. Ranked among the top five largest convention destinations in the country, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority also includes the 71,250-seat Georgia Dome and 21-acre Centennial Olympic Park.
With convention, sports and entertainment venues within the 200-acre complex, Zimmerman attributes the success of the Georgia World Congress Center to the people who are on staff.
“We have a great staff that really conveys southern hospitality and makes our guests feel welcome,” Zimmerman said.
The numbers prove that guests do keep returning to the Georgia World Congress Center and the southern hospitality of its staff. In fiscal year 2009, more than 1 million people attended the facility’s 53 tradeshows and conventions, 12 public and consumer shows and 285 meetings and corporate events. The building’s success doesn’t surprise Zimmerman.
“The Georgia World Congress Center has always been a facility that looks for how it can help customers and provides excellent customer service,” he said.
With 12 exhibit halls, three fixed seat auditoriums, two grand ballrooms and 106 meeting rooms, the Georgia World Congress Center boasts 1.4 million square feet of prime exhibit space in the heart of downtown Atlanta. Adding to the campus’ meeting space is the largest cable-supported domed stadium in the world. The Georgia Dome is located adjacent to the Georgia World Congress Center and offers 102,000 square feet of floor for exhibits. The Dome has played host to the Atlanta Falcons, Chick-fil-A Bowl, two Super Bowls, NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Four games, major concerts, tradeshows and corporate meetings.
Though Zimmerman has spent more than two decades at the Georgia World Congress Center, he laughed when he recalled how his career at the facility began. He was in the construction business when a man from his church mentioned a job opening in the Georgia World Congress Center’s concessions department. He got the job and began his career 26 years ago as concessions supervisor for the facility’s food services department.
Since that time, Zimmerman has moved through the ranks from working as an event coordinator, senior event coordinator and director of event services before moving to Cobb Galleria Centre as assistant general manager. He moved back to the Georgia World Congress Center as assistant general manager before the Olympics and was promoted to general manager in 2004.
He smiled when recalling the excitement in the city during the 1996 Summer Olympics.
“It was a proud moment for the United States and for Georgia,” he said of the spirit and enthusiasm in Atlanta at that time. The Georgia World Congress Center and the Georgia Dome played host to a number of events in the Olympic Games and the exhilaration and excitement of that time is his most memorable industry experience.
Though Atlanta is Zimmerman’s adopted home, he hails from Saginaw, Mich. He attended Northwood University and always looked forward to his trips to visit his brother in Atlanta during spring break. In fact, he had so much fun visiting his brother that he decided he wanted to live in a big city and moved to Atlanta after graduation.
In addition to his brother, Zimmerman has made his own family in Atlanta. He and his wife met in the small college town in Michigan where they attended school and have expanded their family to include two daughters and two sons. He has been a proud booster for his son’s wrestling teams and beams with pride when mentioning his children’s accomplishments.
As well as being a proud father, he is also very proud of his team at the Georgia World Congress Center.
“I love the people I work with and have met in my time here,” he said. “Interacting with customers and staff is my favorite part of the day.”
Community involvement is also very important to Zimmerman and the team at the Georgia World Congress Center. The Center works with shows in the building to donate left over food, supplies and furniture to the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Every year, more than 30,000 pounds of food are donated by the Georgia World Congress Center and the center’s catering partner, Levy Restaurants. The facility also partners every year with a local elementary school, mentoring students on a weekly basis, donating school supplies and facilitating art projects.
With so many years in the industry and such a fulfilling life at home and on the job, Zimmerman’s advice for people just joining the industry is to work hard.
“Don’t worry about how many hours you are putting in and do the best you can,” he said.
Zimmerman’s work ethic, easy smile and gracious nature have propelled him through the ranks of the Georgia World Congress Center, and he and his team’s embrace of hard work and hospitality is what brings shows coming back to the facility year after year.
Julie Holzer Pazina is a National Sales Manager for Edlen Electrical Exhibition Services, the nation’s leading independent temporary utility contractor for the tradeshow, convention and special event industry.
Based in Las Vegas, Edlen Electrical Exhibition Services (www.edlen.com) is an independent temporary utility contractor for the tradeshow, convention and special event industry. National Sales Manager Julie Pazina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.