Bill Owen, General Manager
Bill Owen has 25 years of experience in hospitality that includes food & beverage, catering, convention and banquet services, and operations including nine years with Starwood Hotels, three years with the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, and Kingston Plantation in Myrtle Beach, SC.
Mr. Owen brings valuable experience in complex, multi-unit food and beverage operations and a solid background in the meetings segment having served in regional management positions in the meetings and conventions market. He excels at operational management and a strong working relationship with the local community and other strategic partners all of which will help cultivate a strong bond with the local business community in Gastonia.
As General Manager, Bill is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the facility, which is registered for LEED-Gold certification by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). He will also be responsible for sales and marketing, accounting and purchasing, food and beverage, housekeeping and facility maintenance, catering and conference services, audio/visual and technology, and the environmental sustainability programs on property.
Gastonia Conference Center has successfully established a solid foundation of support from the local business community through civic, not-for-profit, and local corporate business which is consistent with the goals set forth by the management team at The Wilderman Group. Bill is instrumental in cultivating local and regional organizations that conduct meetings in the metropolitan Charlotte region and bring their business to Gastonia Conference Center as their preferred event venue.
Bill supports the concept of attracting meetings and events to the conference center from surrounding regions to bring additional revenue to the community via hotel rooms, restaurants, stores, and services which helps stabilizes the economy, strengthen educational awareness, support the local business community, and preserve of the environment.
Lauren Braxton, Sales Manager
Born and raised in Gastonia, Lauren holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and gained solid experience as an intern at the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) which provided her with an enthusiastic pursuit of a career in meeting and event planning.
Before joining the Gastonia Conference Center, Lauren worked closely with local and regional real estate agencies to negotiate appropriate acreage for the five-acre, 150,000 square-foot NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte and assisted the Charlotte Sports Commission in comprehensive research on a proposal for the ACC Football Championship in Chalotte. Lauren was instrumental in gaining "green company" status from Green Air Works for the CRVA and also worked as an event coordinator at Southern Party and Events.
As Sales manager, Lauren will have the responsibility for prospecting and solicitation of new business by working closely with the metro-Charlotte area as well as in the broader North Carolina and South Carolina markets. She will also focus on the city of Gastonia and Gaston County markets. Lauren will be the primary contact for attracting and booking civic, not-for-profit, local corporate, association and education-based business into the conference center.
An active member of the Gastonia community, Lauren serves on the Board of Directors for Professional Women's Association (PWA), received Provisional of the Year award (2011) and won the Lou Warren Fuller award (2012) from the Junior League of Gaston County, is an active member of the Community Research Committee, and volunteers at The Battered Women's Shelter of Gaston County. Lauren is also a member of Girls on the Run of Gaston County, a character-development program for 3rd-8th grade girls.
Lauren and her husband Sam are both long-time residents of Gastonia along with their extended families. They are active in the community and committed to local high school sports and share an enthusiam for hiking and running with their two dogs, Cash and Holden.
Al Smith, Director of Operations
Al recently relocated from Savannah, Georgia to serve as Director of Operations at Gastonia Conference Center after two years of experience at the Wilderman Group's Richmond Hill City Center. Al and his wife, Rachel, have quickly made themselves at home in Gastonia where she has an artist's studio in the Arts on Main building in downtown Gastonia.
Kristin D. Kurie, President
With 27 years of hospitality sales and marketing experience at distinguished resorts and conference centers, Kristin covers a wide range in the hospitality and meetings industries and she brings a national reputation for her expertise in conference center management and consulting. A recipient of IACC's Award of Excellence and a nominee for the prestigious Mel Hosansky Award for Distinguished Service, she is recognized for her ongoing service to the industry. A committed and dedicated Steward of the Environment, she is an active member of Lowcountry Local First, and has raised awareness of green meetings in the hospitality industry is a frequent guest speaker on "greening your meeting venue".
The Wilderman Group is an innovative woman-owned hospitality management company that provides focused and customized services with a team of industry experts in all areas of hospitality including, operations, sales and marketing management, food and beverage, and environmental programs. They specialize in civic and community developments and creating effective and productive environments for meetings and conferences. They are steadfast in their commitment to environmental stewardship and are proud and active members of the US Green Building Council's Charlotte Regional Chapter, South Carolina Chapter, Georgia Chapter, and the International Association of Conference Centers.
For further information about the Wilderman Group please visit their website at thewildermangroup.com