Monday Meeting: Director’s goal: make county a hit with athletes, fans

As executive director of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, George Linley helped lure a record-breaking number of tourism-related sporting events here last budget year.

The nonprofit commission, which is one of a handful of agencies contracted by the county to promote and market the area as a tourism destination, brought 128 events to Palm Beach County during the budget year that ended in September, resulting in 180,000 nightly hotel room bookings.

Between May and September, the commission is set to play host to a record 59 competitive youth and amateur sporting events. The lineup includes the county’s largest summer schedule of statewide tournaments.

The summer events serve as a buoy for local hotels, boosting occupancy rates just as the busy winter tourism season comes to a close.

Age: 39

Hometown: I was born and raised in Palm Beach County.

Where you live now: I live in PGA National. Of course I have to live in a community with a great sports backdrop.

About your company: The Palm Beach County Sports Commission is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is contracted by Palm Beach County to serve as a sports tourism development agency. The organization is overseen by a 17 member board of directors along with nine staff members.

How your business has changed: I’m privileged to work in one of the fastest-growing segments of the overall travel industry in the United States. The sports events and travel marketplace has experienced incredible growth and has developed into a powerful and lucrative niche market for tourism. The economies of cities and regions are increasingly benefiting from visiting athletes, coaches and sports enthusiasts. The leading factors for this trend include the rising capacity of sports tourism, sporting events’ predisposition to be relatively resistant during economic downturns, sports visitors’ tendencies to stay longer than other types of tourists, and the impact that sporting events have on quality of life.

. Palm Beach County deserves enormous credit for being on the forefront in recognizing that sports tourism was an opportunity to attract visitors and generate new revenues for its destination.

First paying job and what I learned from it: After graduating from college with a business management degree, I worked in the accounting department for a financial services institution. In order to fulfill my dream of working in the sports industry, I left this career opportunity to accept an internship at Roger Dean Stadium. I left a good job offering a decent salary for an internship that paid $850 per month in order to break into the sports industry. I was nervous about this move, but decided it was necessary to pursue a dream that lived in a different industry. The internship began my journey in sports management.

First break in the industry: My first break could be traced back to my days at Roger Dean Stadium around 2001. During the end of my internship, the general manager of Roger Dean Stadium, Rob Rabenecker, told me that I would have an opportunity to join his staff. I learned a great deal from Rob and I would not have my place in this industry without him.

Best piece of advice that I ever received: The Bible tells us to treat others the same way you want them to treat you. I couldn’t think of better advice. I absolutely believe in this message. This lesson is also critical in business. Whether it’s a colleague, client, partner, or stakeholder of your company, applying this lesson is essential to creating trust, obtaining confidence, motivating others and retaining or attracting business. In order to be a great leader, I believe you must live by this rule.

What you tell young people about your business:

My advice to aspiring sports events professionals is to get involved and engage in opportunities that will build your résumé. Volunteer for different sports events or sports organizations within your community and network as much as possible. Communicate effectively and illustrate your zeal to join a very special marketplace.

What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County? I believe we live in the most dynamic destination that exists in the United States. We are an incredibly diverse destination and truly offer the best way to experience Florida.

From a sports tourism perspective, I believe Palm Beach County will continue to evolve into one of the most celebrated destinations for sports events.

I’m very excited about new facility development that’s in the horizon. The proposed new Major League Baseball Spring Training Complex will transform Palm Beach County into the epicenter for baseball in Florida. I see our position as a global sports destination elevating to new levels in the future.

Where we can find you when you are not at the office? I enjoy shooting, bass fishing and playing recreational sports with friends to clear my mind. However, God gave me a beautiful daughter 19 months ago. Now, when I’m not in the office, I spend most of my time enjoying life with her and my lovely wife.

Favorite smartphone app: The weather application, especially when the Palm Beach County Sports Commission is hosting a major outdoor event.

What is the most important trait you look for when hiring? I seek to identify those who aspire to be leaders. I look for people who have the ability to motivate others and will be great teammates.

Favorite business book: “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t,” by Jim Collins.

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