HERMISTON
EOTEC ready to begin booking

Heather Cannell

As the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center transitions from concept to reality, the project’s board took the next step Friday by hiring a business development manager.

Starting March 1, Heather Cannell will handle marketing, event booking, sales and customer service for the event center, which is set to open its doors in 2016.

“She’s definitely going to be our face, and it’s a good one,” board member Dan Dorran said.

Cannell has lived in Hermiston for four years, working as the conference center facilitator for the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce. She said her degree is in recreation and hospitality management and before moving to Hermiston for her husband’s job most of her experience was in managing five star resorts.

“I want to do big stuff again, and bring in big conferences,” she said.

Until she has a physical event center to run, much of Cannell’s job will be marketing the EOTEC project to get it on event coordinators’ radar. Her salary will be paid from the tourism promotion assessment fund generated for marketing by quarterly payments from local hoteliers and RV park owners.

Board member Ed Brookshier said Cannell was a good fit for the job.

“What impressed me from the very beginning is that she really got, and understands, what we’re doing here,” he said.

Dorran called EOTEC a “tweener facility” that will offer something for events that have outgrown fairgrounds and conference centers but can’t fill a large expo center.

“There’s a niche out there and we’re going to fill it very quickly,” he said.

Barton Laser Leveling has been working since December on grading and underground utilities for the site. On Friday the board prepared to start “vertical construction” by awarding a bid for construction of the event center building to G2 Construction of Kennewick.

The company beat out Knerr Construction of Hermiston and Apollo Inc. of Kennewick.

“All three firms were very, very qualified,” said project manager Gary Winsand. “It was a tough choice.”

Winsand said the bids for the event center came in just “a smidge over” the $2.8 million budget estimate for the event center construction. EOTEC’s overall project budget is a little over $12.8 million.

G2 Construction president Doug Gunther said his company was grateful for the opportunity to become part of the project and he planned to start attending EOTEC meetings regularly.

Next month the EOTEC authority plans to approve Frew Development’s design for the rodeo arena and livestock barns and release bid packages for construction. According to a report Winsand handed the board, sitework will begin “in earnest” in late March.

Dorran said the board has not had time yet to speak to Umatilla County about replacing board member Chet Prior, who filled a county-appointed seat on the EOTEC authority until his death on Feb. 15.

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Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.

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