Black Meetings and Tourism

JAN/FEB 2012

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career, is mirrored by many other industries. Hamburger University – yes, it is real!" says Simmons and adds, "Instructors and professors teach and train operational, public relations, com- munity involvement and so much more." Simmons says that networking and community involvement helped her be successful along the way. She served on numer- ous boards during her time as an entrepreneur, including serv- ing as the Marketing Chair for the National Black McDonald's Operators Association. After 10 years as a restaurant owner, Simmons retired but still stayed connected to her community by serving as a board member for the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors bureau. "I served two terms on this board and also was the marketing chair representative [for] the board which allowed me to learn the dynamics of promot- ing the area as a premier destination to visitors and potential business development," notes Simmons. In 2007, that job turned into her current position of director of Marketing, where she sets a vision and direction for the long-term success of the marketing strategies in managing LaPorte County as a visitor destination, as well as managing all of the CVB's pro- grams and initiatives. Simmons says some of the challenges she faces in her job are LINDA G. SIMMONS BY MARY BLEIER Be confident in yourself.Those are words that Linda G. Simmons lives by and have helped propel her into two very exciting and different careers during her lifetime. Currently the director of Marketing for the LaPorte County Convention &Visitors Bureau in Michigan City, Indiana, Simmons is focused on marketing the coastal community of LaPorte as a visitor destination not to be missed. Conveniently located, LaPorte County shares Lake Michigan with its Michigan and Illinois neighbors. Since moving to LaPorte more than three decades ago, Simmons started her career by working as an office manager for an entrepreneur who owned/operated 40McDonald restaurants in the Indiana and Chicago area.With a keen sense for business and communicating, she became a franchise owner/operator of her own McDonald's restaurant in 1992."The training and edu- cational component that McDonald's Corporation offers to its owners/operators and managers to prepare for a successful 52 how to continually strive to raise the bar for her and her staff as well as being creative in promoting the destination. But to help keep her ideas and goals fresh, Simmons is part of several indus- try related organizations that offer educational training and mar- keting strategies throughout the year such as Destination Marketing Association International, Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission and the Association of Indiana Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Membership in these three organizations gives us valuable tools and information on how we can draw awareness to our area through marketing efforts that work," says Simmons. With those efforts, Simmons recently helped launch a new website and logo which showcases LaPorte as a nice alternative to those wanting to avoid the hustle and bustle of a big city, yet have the convenience of accessible Interstates to all of the major cities in the area. Small to large groups have several options including the Blue Chip Casino & Spa, which offers 486 guest rooms, two ball- rooms that can hold up to 1,200 people, 14 meeting rooms, and 15,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, plus, there are several chain hotels such as the Best Western and the Clarion Hotel that also have meeting and conference space. Simmons adds that besides the close proximity to Lake Michigan, visitors have plenty to do and lots of places to explore including beaches, sand dunes, museums, landmarks, premium outlet shopping, arts and theater. For more informa- tion, visit and meeting planners can contact Simmons at or (219) 872-5055. Black Meetings & Tourism January/February 2012:

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