Regional Vice President of SMG
and General Manager at the Cobo Center
Thom Connors is Regional Vice President of SMG and General Manger at the Cobo Center. Before coming to Detroit, he coordinated the start up of the new Irving Convention Center that opened in January 2011.
Previously based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he established SMG’s Latin American office there as Senior Regional Vice President and oversaw operation of the Coliseo de Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Convention Center, while directing SMG’s business development activity in the region. From 1996-2006 he served on the corporate staff as national director of SMG’s Convention Center Division.
Mr. Connors joined SMG in 1982 and has also been Southeast Regional Vice President while serving as General Manager of the Miami Beach Convention Center and the Jackie Gleason Theater. He was Director of Development for SMG International in London from 1986-1991. He began his career in public assembly facilities management with the City or Orlando, Florida where he was appointed Manager of the Centroplex in 1978.
Assistant General Manager
Claude Molinari is the Assistant General Manager for Cobo Center and responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operation and business development of Cobo Center, including budgeting, forecasting and financing, and implementing safety, security and crisis management programs. He negotiates with local trade unions, develops business contingency, facility safety and emergency plans, and assures that the annual budget goals are achieved.
Coming to the Cobo Center from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (DLCC) in Pittsburgh, Pa., Mr. Molinari served as assistant general manager there since 2005. During his tenure at the DLCC, Molinari oversaw budgeting, forecasting and financing, and implemented award winning safety, security and crisis management programs.
Sharon A. Schuster
Director of Finance
Sharon A. Schuster is the Controller and Director of Finance for Cobo Center. Before coming to Cobo Center, Mrs. Schuster was Controller for the City of St. Clair Shores for 13 years.
She brings with her expertise in departmental productivity and efficiency, and operational budget management. She has a BA in Business Administration from Wayne State University and is a Certified Public Accountant.
While providing leadership and coaching to the finance team at Cobo, Mrs. Schuster manages Cobo’s financial and accounting policies, systems and processes; payroll systems and process; ongoing budgeting and financial modeling; and the annual business plan.
Director of Human Resources
Scott Balutowicz is Director of Human Resources for Cobo Center. A senior professional of human resources (SPHR) with proven success in all core human resources functions, he has particular expertise in process improvement, organizational design and employee development.
Mr. Balutowicz comes to Cobo Center from the Lafarge North America. He is a certified trainer in leadership and service for Achieve Global, a published author, featured speaker and organizes various, national HR conferences.
Senior Operations Manager
Cedric Turnbore is the Senior Operations Manager for Cobo Center. While overseeing vendor contract services, he supervises the training and performance of all contract labor in Cobo Center, ensuring a welcoming event experience for customers. He oversees the Safety Committee and Green Initiatives in the facility, and coordinates participation and certifications. With more than 20 years in the hospitality industry, he comes to Cobo with experience from the Westin Book Cadillac, Marriott Hotels, and the City of Detroit.
Mr. Turnbore is ServSafe certified along with his business degree from Marygrove College. He received the Manager of the Year award from Marriott Hotels and was nominated twice for the prestigious Rose Award for excellence customer service.
Marketing and Communications Manager
Mary Klida comes to the Cobo Center from Smart City Networks where she served as Marketing Manager for the event center technology supplier. During her five-year tenure at Smart City, she implemented their branding campaign in media, marketing and public relations. She oversaw all content creation and message strategy, and wrote and published technology news campaigns.
Mrs. Klida is responsible for developing the Cobo Center brand, developing partnership opportunities, digital asset optimization including social media marketing development, newsletter development and Cobo’s public relations messaging and marketing campaigns. She designed a Special Major while at Southern Illinois University in the College of Liberal Arts, and has certifications from the Stephen Covey Leadership Institute and Illinois Prevention Resource Center in leadership, community organization and staff management.
Bruce G. Smith
Manager of Public Safety and Security
Bruce G. Smith is Manager of Public Safety and Security for Cobo Center. He is charged with directing and coordinating activities related to the protection, safeguarding and security of Cobo Center’s assets, employees, invitees and others; ensuring compliance with federal state and local regulations, including OSHA, MIOSHA and Homeland Security rules and regulations.
Mr. Smith is a graduate of the Police Academy of Southfield, Mich., with special training in Hazmat response, 1st Responder Awareness, Chemical Weapons, Defensive Tactics Systems, Bomb Search, Patrol Technique, Criminal Investigation, Police Leadership and Community Policing. Previously, he has worked with the Detroit Opera House, Fox Theater, Joe Louis Arena, Cobo Arena, Detroit Tigers/Comerica Park, and Northland Center.
Event Services Manager
Rajiv Chopra is Event Services Manager for Cobo Center and is responsible for assisting customers with everything from ordering to moving out to create an outstanding event at Cobo Center.
With his team of Event Coordinators, Mr. Chopra makes sure that each customer has all the resources they need in the initial planning stages and throughout the event, including: facilitating planning meetings and site visits, preparing fact sheets and floor plans and writing work orders for the operations staff during each event.
Mr. Chopra has been with Cobo Center since 1980. He has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Delhi, India and a certification in Hotel Management, Catering and Nutrition from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
Senior Sales Manager
David Austin has been the Sales Manager for Cobo Center since 2003, and is responsible for lead generation, qualification and solicitation of specific meetings and events. He prepares event contracts and proposals with clients to finalize booking arrangements.
Mr. Austin has a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind., and a Masters in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy in Daphe, Ala. He is a member of the Michigan Society of Association Executives, the Meeting Professionals International and MPI Michigan Chapter, the International Association for Exhibition and Events, the American Society of Association Executives and the Association for Convention Marketing Executives.
Technology Services Manager
Jack Trost is Technology Services Manager for Cobo Center and has been with the Center for 28 years. He and his staff are responsible for maintaining the technology systems in Cobo Center, including phone and Internet services for Center operations and customer events.
Mr. Trost assures the upkeep and continuous operations of the wireless networks, switch, network backbone, outlets, equipment and inventory for all technology services. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Sciences from Eastern Michigan University.
Manager of Engineering Services
Al Vasquez is Manager of Engineering Services at Cobo Center and is responsible for directing and managing the maintenance of the buildings, grounds, equipment and utilities within the Center. He keeps compliant with and abreast of local building codes and OSHA regulations, and assists customers with their facilities requirements.
Mr. Vasquez has been with Cobo Center since 2009, coming with facilities management experience with Johnson Controls, Inc., St. Joseph Mercy Health System and the University of Michigan. He is an instructor in Thermodynamics, Electricity, Direct Digital Controls, and General HVAC at Washtenaw Community College in Ypsilanti, MI. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Ferris State University and is a Certified Energy Manager (CEM) with the Association of Energy Engineers.
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Cobo Center is the largest Green Venues Michigan facility.
Food and Beverage Catering Services are provided by Centerplate.