Sometimes you just have to lead, dammit.
That’s what happened in San Luis Obispo County this fall when hotelier John King stepped up big time to garner a huge prize, time trials and an overnight in Avila Beach for the Amgen Tour of California.
The bold move by King, after several cities in SLO County turned down the trial heat due to financial considerations, was a coup that will garner millions of dollars to a town that has seen a literal rebirth during the past two decades.
It also shows how one person can be a game changer by recognizing and taking advantage of an opportunity. In case you have not heard of it, the Amgen Tour is fast becoming America’s premier road bicycle racing event, thanks in part to the global marketing reach of Denver-based Anschutz Entertainment Group, or AEG.
AEG owns the Staples Center and LA Live in California and a number of venues in London. Amgen, the Thousand Oaks-based pharma giant, has been the title sponsor since it was launched several years ago. Other sponsors include Rabobank, a huge supporter of bicycle racing globally and one of the biggest banking presences in the Tri-Counties.
King was savvy enough to recognize that SLO County was going to be the lynchpin in the south-to-north route proposed by AEG for the 2013 tour, which takes place in May, at the beginning of the summer tourist season.
He also recognized that while individual cities did not have the financial resources to support a bid, the county’s TBID, or tourism business improvement district, could easily make the investment up front and then generate a bigger return as the riders, teams and fans, filled hotels in Pismo Beach, Avila Beach and surrounding areas to the brim.
As a story on Page 7A of this week’s newspaper makes clear, the county expects the event to be cost neutral in terms of staffing because AEG will step up to pay many of the costs associated with the law enforcement and first responders who will be needed to staff the event and handle traffic. In exchange, Avila Beach will get media exposure and a tourism buzz that far outweighs what it could buy with the $30,000 it put in upfront. As King has pointed out, the tour’s organizers — people who are explicitly tasked with finding lovely places for a race — were almost completely unaware of the hidden gem tucked away in San Luis Bay.
Through persistence and what we understand were a few well placed phone calls to some movers and shakers in the hospitality industry, he got the deal done. Sometimes it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.
That’s what’s called leadership. Well done, Mr. King.
We’ll take a few words to honor the memory of Michael Lavenant, a member of the Business Times community, who died recently at age 42.
Lavenant was a loving father and successful attorney from Camarillo. He was a former chairman of the Camarillo Chamber’s board of directors. In 2006, the Business Times was proud to recognize him in our class of 40 Under 40.
We express our sincere condolences to the Lavenant family, the Camarillo Chamber and to all who knew him. He was a great example of doing business the right way, and he will be missed.