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Southwest Showcase congratulated our 2023 Award winners, a leading industry peer and state-of-the-art meeting destination. These award recipients were recognized on Friday, January 27 during the 2023 Southwest Showcase Luncheon.

2023 Industry Professional of the Year Award

Dana Kirkhart, CEM
Director of Client Solutions

Dana Kirkhart, CEM, started her events industry career in 2007 as the Expo Operations Manager for the Texas Restaurant Association. In 2010 she went to work for CDS Events for a year before they were acquired by Freeman in 2011. Currently the Director of Client Solutions, she supports the San Antonio, Austin and Houston Market, managing over 45 events annually. In that role she ensures cohesive strategies are in place, keeping internal customers and clients engaged in meaningful ways with a focus on positivity, collaboration and teamwork. Her volunteer involvement in the industry is significant, serving in almost every capacity for IAEE-CTC, including as Chair of the organization twice. She has been a member of the Texas Society of Association Executives (TSAE) since 2019. Dana’s awards and honors include the Certification in Exhibition Management (CEM) designation and the IAEE Merit Award, both in 2016, as well as the IAEE Central Texas Chapter Chairman’s Award in 2019.


2023 Most Exciting Meeting Destination Change

Destination El Paso for
El Paso Downtown & Convention Center Renaissance

The El Paso Convention Center was originally built in the 1970s. Although it has been expanded and upgraded since then, it was due for a major renovation. To that end Destination El Paso worked closely with the city leaders on their vision for the facility and downtown core from a destination marketing perspective. Over the course of two decades and specifically within the last two years, the city has revamped the aging convention center with a digital marquee, and upgraded interior and exterior finishes to better fit into the highly competitive destination marketing industry. The updated convention center compliments the renaissance underway in Downtown El Paso. Since the pandemic the core of the city has reinvented itself, combining the $3.1 million invested in the convention center with the completion of two major hotel renovation projects. That all these developments happened together is what makes it most impactful for El Paso, especially as the renewed convention center has leveraged the city’s ability to bring new event-oriented business to El Paso.

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