Karen Totaro returns to the Midwest to run Detroit’s Huntington Place.

Karen Totaro knows a few things about running a convention center. Over her 30-year career, she has held senior positions at Oregon Convention Center, Duke Energy Convention Center Cincinnati, Atlantic City Convention Center, and she was the chief operating officer at San Diego Convention Center from 2016 to 2020. Last year, Totaro moved to Detroit to become general manager of the newly renamed Huntington Place, the 16th largest convention center in the U.S.

M+E: What led you to leave sunny San Diego to become GM of Huntington Place?

KT: I grew up in Chicago and always knew I would end up back in the Midwest. I just love old industrial cities and am excited about the opportunity to be a part of the continuing evolution in Detroit. The venue itself is huge, flexible, sustainable and offers breathtaking views of the Detroit River and Canada. There is a unique passion and sense of being part of something bigger here. Detroit has a special sense of community like no other.

M+E: Can you share a moment or two that has made you feel moving here was the right decision?  

KT: Being part of reopening the venue when the governor gave the go-ahead back in July was a tremendous sense of accomplishment for our entire team. It made me excited for our future as our venue has a huge economic impact on this community. 

It was a big goal to get the North American International Auto Show back in the venue and contracted for this year. 

Finally, I would say there has been enormous satisfaction in ensuring we are giving back to the community. Watching thousands drive through the vaccination site in the Atwater Garage or watching our most vulnerable population being served hot meals at the Pope Francis location in the venue makes me so proud to be part of this team.

M+E: What would you like meeting planners to know about Huntington Place? 

KT: I would like all planners to know that Detroit and Huntington Place really have your back. Our team will go above and beyond to ensure your event is not only successful, but that you and your team feel that success as well. We do not force square pegs in round holes; we work with each client to find the magic combination of needs, price and service and then exceed those expectations.

After a three-year hiatus, the North American International Auto Show is back in Detroit this fall.

Anchored by Huntington Place with additional components taking place throughout downtown Detroit, it will be open to the public Sept. 17-25. Media/Tech Days are set for Sept. 14 and 15, with a Charity Preview Sept. 16.

Chairman Joe Lunghamer says he’s excited that the show is returning.

“We are grateful to be back,” he says. “The Detroit Auto Show has a long history. Everyone seems to have a story about their experiences at the show.

 

I chatted with Karen Totaro, general manager of Detroit’s newly renamed Huntington Place convention center, for our People Profile page in the spring issue of Michigan Meetings + Events. We didn’t have room for the whole conversation, so I wanted to share more of what Totaro had to say.  

 

So long, Cobo Hall! Huntington Place is the new name for Detroit’s world-class convention center. Karen Totaro, general manager for ASM Global, which runs the day-to-day operations for the venue, announced the name change. “Our partnership with Huntington Bank brings a wealth of opportunities to our community and visitors,” she said.