Behind the List with Dennis Grumbine
CEO of Lebanon Valley Expo Center and the Lebanon County tourism promotion agency
Q: The expo center hosts a wide variety of events, including shows for gem miners, quilters, homebuilders and Siamese cat enthusiasts. How do these groups get connected with the expo center?
A: It's a pretty small nucleus of facilities and facility managers nationwide. A lot of us on the East Coast who run facilities like this — the Farm Show Complex, the York Expo Center — we pretty much all know the promoters and producers of events that are at these various places.
You don't have a lot of new people starting shows, events or conventions. It's a network of individuals who manage these facilities that converse constantly with each other. Let's say you have somebody producing shows in the Boston area say, “I want to do something in southeastern Pennsylvania.” (Someone in the network) will say, “Why don't you call this guy? I know him.”
With the diversity of events we have, that, of course, exposes a ton of people to our facility. You could have somebody in here for a gun show, for example, that may call you and say, “We're interested in doing a dog show here.”
We are part of national organizations that have a constant website of facilities and floor plans laid out in 10-by-10. ... I always made the statement that we need to be able to go from bulls to ballet. We're having that very thing happen this weekend. We've got a cow sale going on Friday, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we've got a ladies' national gymnastics competition going on in a different part of the building.
How has the expo center's revenue stream changed over the years?
We are very fortunate in the fact that, number one, we've tried to run a lean, clean machine. We've basically in the last 10 years more than doubled our gross revenue through some pretty tough years. There were some pretty lean years when the general economy did not support some retail events.
All of that, again, fits well into us filling the hotel rooms, restaurants, those kinds of things in the area, which has a tremendously positive impact of close to $200 million on the county.
What are some benefits associated with the expo center's location? What are some challenges?
The benefits are that we are strategically located between all the major arteries — I-78, I-81, the Turnpike. It's easy to get to, (and) we have over 80 acres here, so we have a ton of parking.
What we are lacking is supporting infrastructure. What I mean by that is more hotel rooms and branded restaurants. We ship an awful lot of money out of Lebanon County into surrounding counties — and they're glad for that, and they're our friends, and I appreciate all that — but a lot of money leaves Lebanon County because we don't have the ability to maintain the amount of people we attract to Lebanon County and put their heads in beds here.
What impact do you think more hotel rooms in the area would have on your operations?
It would make us more attractive to larger events. For example, a lot of major events are going to come in here, and they will want 750 rooms within a 5-mile radius. We don't have that. A lot of our major events now are filling all the hotels from Harrisburg to Reading to Lancaster.
It would just help us when you have events like that come here and say, “Can you assure me that many rooms within 15 minutes' drive?” That's heavy lifting for us. That causes other folks to get a leg up on an event.
What sets Lebanon Valley Expo Center apart from other rental facilities?
Easy access. Everything we have here is pretty much on one floor. We're over 75,000 square feet of totally contiguous buildings. Once you're in here, you don't have to go outside. You don't go from one building to the next; it's all interconnected.
Because of our diversity of shows, our staff is pretty well able to handle anything, whether it's a gem show, jewelry show, cat show, dog show, bull show or gymnastics.
About Dennis Grumbine
A native of Lebanon County, Grumbine is a farmer who does general crop farming and raises livestock with his two sons. They also are in the farm machinery business.
Grumbine and his wife, Barbara, have four grandsons who show animals. He enjoys water skiing and other water sports in the summer.