WMSC expands, promotes staff

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Conner Hicks. Courtesy West Michigan Sports Commission

The West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) chose new leaders.

The nonprofit hired Conner Hicks as national sales manager and promoted Melissa Brink to marketing manager to continue to attract sporting events to West Michigan and bolster the region’s tourism and hospitality industry.

“Conner brings a strong local sales background from his time at Aimbridge Hospitality and Crowne Plaza Hotel,” said Mike Guswiler, president, WMSC. “He has intimate knowledge of our work and proven ability to impact our local economy through sports tourism. We look forward to Conner joining and growing our impact. We’re also thrilled to promote Melissa Brink, who has contributed her marketing and graphic design talents to our organization over the past six-plus years.”

Hicks replaced Alyssa Updegrave. He previously was the sales manager for Aimbridge Hospitality at the Holiday Inn Grand Rapids Airport, where he oversaw all group sales initiatives. He generated group guest room and catering revenue from organizations in the sports, military, education, religion and fraternal market segments, which was how he was introduced to the WMSC.

As sales manager at Holiday Inn Grand Rapids Airport, he worked with the WMSC to provide hotel rates for bid proposals and repeat groups and talked with the organization about what was needed to become a preferred hotel for a sports team.

Before joining Holiday Inn Grand Rapids Airport, Hicks was the events sales manager at the former Crowne Plaza Grand Rapids Airport & Conference Center, event supervisor at Applause Catering + Events and event coordinator at CityFlatsHotel.

“I am thrilled to join an organization that has already made such a huge impact on the tourism industry in Grand Rapids,” Hicks said. “Working with the WMSC on the hotel side has given me a firsthand look at the passion and hard work this staff puts into expanding the sport tourism market. I am excited to contribute to that growth and the potential to improve an already fantastic team.”

Melissa Brink. Courtesy West Michigan Sports Commission

Brink was promoted to marketing manager of WMSC after serving for five years as the marketing specialist for the organization’s signature Meijer State Games of Michigan. In her new role, Brink will report to Guswiler and provide day-to-day marketing support for the WMSC and its operating entities — State Games of Michigan, Meijer Sports Complex — such as developing email marketing campaigns, overseeing marketing initiatives, designing graphics and creating and managing online content.

“We have a great team at the West Michigan Sports Commission, and it is a wonderful feeling to be recognized for the contributions I’ve made and be supported by my colleagues,” Brink said. “I look forward to further promoting Grand Rapids as a sports destination through our many hosted events, the Meijer State Games of Michigan and the Meijer Sports Complex.”

Along with Hicks joining the team and Brink being promoted, WMSC elected its 2022 board officers and directors. Tim Gortsema, president of the Grand Rapids Griffins, was re-elected as vice-chair after his previous term ended Dec. 31.

Board members who renewed three-year terms that were expiring on Dec. 31 of last year include Tom McCall, Meijer Inc.; Nick Davidson, Aquinas College; Jim Jarecki, West Michigan Whitecaps; and Chad LeRoux, AHC Hospitality.

Board Chair Jim Horman, Progressive AE; Past Chair Deb Kay; Treasurer Bob Partridge; and Secretary Emily Brieve, Kent County commissioner, all still are serving their terms.

The board members are Brenda Borkowski, Steelcase; Diane Jones, Kent County commissioner; Kurt Lacks, Lacks Enterprises; Dave Hoogendoorn, Ernst & Young; Ed Wilson, Country Inn & Suites; and Doug Small, Experience Grand Rapids.

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