Chris Carpenter, CFE, is the senior vice president and general manager of the San Mateo County Event Center in San Mateo, California. With 195,000 square feet of facility sizes from small meeting spaces up to the only 100,000-plus square-foot exposition hall outside of San Francisco, the San Mateo County Event Center has evolved to become the Bay Area’s top destination for consumer and trade events, meetings, festivals, corporate events, sporting events, and much more.
Carpenter joined the Certified Facilities Executive (CFE) family in 2006. His journey in managing various venues throughout the country has provided insight and innovation in operating multiple shows in an ever changing market.
The San Mateo County Events Center serves a diverse customer base. What have you recently accomplished through the feasibility of a new design concept, renovation, or market expansion to keep your venue fresh and competitive?
I have enjoyed my 13 years at the San Mateo County Event Center, which has demonstrated increased profitability each year and the design of a successful in-house catering and food service concept—Creative Touch Catering & Food Services. We have certainly evolved a great deal over the years from hosting mostly weekend public shows to trade shows and corporate events to include expansion into the corporate market—Facebook, Yahoo, Fisher Investments, VISA, Sony PlayStation, Golden Gate Apparel, etc.
Over the years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work at the SAP Arena, Nob Hill Masonic Center, and with SMG, where I began my career in 1981. Although I cannot begin mention all of my mentors in the industry, Dick Shaff at the Moscone Center was a wonderful mentor in my career and I thank him because I would not be here without his guidance and friendship.
What has been the benefit of having your CFE in your career?
I am honored to have been an IAVM member since 1988 and served as an officer for District VII and the board of directors of IAVM for seven years.
Earning my CFE was an honor and many of our clients recognize one’s commitment to the industry and to reach a higher level of experience in facility management. This, of course, benefits them in the overall planning, procedures, and overall service they can expect to receive from our staff and venue.
Those in the industry who also received the CFE designation will agree that it is no easy task. It requires a great deal of study time (in the operation of all types of venues) and an exam monitored by a proctor, along with an interview process from your peers who already maintain the designation.
What are your thoughts about sustainability and the environmental impact your venue has on the community, visitors, and its stakeholders?
This is of extreme importance for all venues to take part in. Our team at the San Mateo County Event Center attended a six-month program with other stakeholders sharing ideas, venue design, and upgrades. As a result, we have installed LED Lights, high-efficiency HVAC units, cut down on water usage, and the “carbon footprint.” In addition to this, I formed a “Green Team” (with nice shirts we wear) to monitor and measure the results.
What advice would you impart to a young professional starting out in the venue industry?
In my humble opinion, we provide a service to the community that enlightens people of all walks of life; this is why I love this business so much. My advice would be to find a mentor who you can work with to target your skills in the industry. Become involved with IAVM and all that is offered—conferences, chapter meetings, their resource center, and make professional friendships with your peers in the industry that you can call upon with questions or ideas. This is a wonderful industry family that we have the opportunity to improve and one that enriches the life of many.
Why I love what I am doing?
Originally, I studied to become a mechanical engineer and after a few years of college embarked on a journey from the mid-west to visit my sister in San Francisco. The Moscone Center was opening while I was in San Francisco. I made it through the interview process to become a supervisor in the operations department opening a new premier facility. This was the best thing, professionally, that happened in my life and I cannot imagine myself working in any other industry. After 35 years, I look back with a big smile and gratitude. FM
(Top image: Jennifer Morrow/Creative Commons)