As head of international trade group, David Ross is making a difference

Tuesday, October 18, 2005
David Ross spoke about the several events that have been held at the Show Me Center. (DIANE L. WILSON ~ dlwilson@

Show Me Center director David Ross is in the midst of one of the most successful seasons that he can remember. He's booked big-name acts like country crooner Willie Nelson, red-neck comedian Larry the Cable Guy, the always popular mainstay Sesame Street Live and the Transiberian Orchestra.

On the recent day he made time for an interview, it's the day that Allison Kruass is to perform at the facility he's managed since it opened in 1987. Not too shabby for a facility that is sometimes criticized for not getting big-time entertainment.

"This is as good a fall as we've had lined up in quite a while," Ross said.

Ross is also celebrating professional highs in other ways. In July, Ross was appointed as the president of the International Association of Assembly Managers.

The IAAM is a trade group made up of professionals who run entertainment and sports venues all over the world. IAAM counts more than 3,500 members in 33 countries, a group that oversees the bulk of a multibillion-dollar business that includes in part the travel, leisure and tourism business.

It's a job that has him traveling on a global scale. He's recently been to Washington, D.C., Dallas and San Antonio. He had a trip scheduled for Amerstam in late October, where he will participate in a meeting to help facilities managers in Europe. In November, he's off for Beijing, China, where he will represent the group at a summit to help China organize for the 2008 Olympics.

As president of the group, he's also been interviewed by "Billboard," "Venues Today," and "Celebrity Access." He is on the cover of the August/September issue of "Facility Manager."

It's a busy job, but it's a role he relishes. He said it gives him a chance to give a voice to others in the industry like him -- those who manage smaller arenas who sometimes get drowned out by the megaphones of venues like Madison Square Garden in New York or the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

In July, Ross took over as president of the IAAM. Ross has been involved in IAAM for several years, most recently as vice president of District 3, which includes several Midwestern states. He also has been on the group's board and served on various committees.

In "Facilities Manager," Ross is spoken of highly. Dick Walsh, a recognized leader in the industry and a past IAAM president himself, said he knew Ross was a natural born leader the first time he saw him.

"I can't even tell you the meeting, but we were at some IAAM meeting and as I looked at him and observed him in the room, I knew right then that this was someone who was going to be successful," Walsh told the magazine.

The executive of the group, Dexter King, said that Ross worked his way up the ladder in the organization.

"He rose to the top," King said while visiting Cape Girardeau earlier this year. "We don't feel that just because you're in a smaller market or run a smaller venue that you don't have an impact. We're about making people's experience safe and comfortable. David Ross knows how to do that."

IAAM was first established in 1924 when six auditorium managers assembled in Cleveland to discuss common issues. Today, the group provides educational programs and workshops for venue managers, conferences for each venue type, sets up certified and accredited educational schools, and establishes best practice guidelines.

Not that his now job is affecting his current one. Ross said he took the job with the blessing of Southeast Missouri State University president Dr. Ken Dobbins. He still spends most of his time managing the Show Me Center, which has 7,000 seats.

He's especially pleased with the work he and his staff has done to put together the shows for this fall, though he said it's something they always work at.

"We haven't done anything this year that we haven't done in years past," he said. "It's cyclical. It's like fishing, throwing your lines in the water. Either you get a bite or you don't."

People also may not realize the fiscal impact Show Me Center events have on the community. The shows often draw from a large area, bringing people in from out of town. They'll have dinner, gas up their cars and maybe even stay in a hotel over night.

"Anything that gets the public out and moving around has an impact," he said.

Meet David Ross

Age: 52

Position: Director of the Show Me Center since it opened in 1987; president of the International Association of Assembly Managers

Experience/Education: Bachelor's degree from University of Tennessee-Knoxville; master's degree from Ohio University in sports administration and facilities management. Ross started out working for professional soccer teams from 1977 until 1983 as a ticket manager, assistant general manager and operations director. He then went to University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, where he was assistant director for marketing. He took the Show Me Center job in 1987 when it opened.

Personal: Wife, Susan, two children, Erin, 23, and Bryan, 20.

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