Depending on the day, Claude Molinari is a salesman, lawyer, financier or janitor. 

“Some days I’m every one of those different things,” says the Cobo Center general man ager. Molinari’s daily tasks might involve selling groups on the Comeback City, negotiating with unions, crunching budget numbers and making sure all the snow is cleared. He also manages the city’s granddaddy of events, the North American International Auto Show. 

Molinari says he sees “a lot of reason for optimism” for the region’s meetings and events industry. The transformation of downtown Detroit and Cobo Center has helped ensure the convention center’s calendar is brimming with a diverse mix of citywide shows and conventions. In fact, the fiscal year ending September 2016 may be the center’s best ever, Molinari says.

Molinari joined SMG, the company that manages Cobo Center, after he fell into the industry working part-time in college at a convention center. Since then, he says, he’s been blessed to work for and train under some of the best minds in the industry, including his predecessor, Thom Connors, who was instrumental in Cobo Center’s turnaround and who groomed Molinari to take the reins last March. 

And while he and his team strive for per - fection, Molinari says he believes how you handle failure is what sets you apart. 

“The critical thing is to prevent failures from becoming a catastrophe,” he says. That’s best achieved by having a plan and stepping up to make things right.”

Although he works crazy hours at times, the high-energy Molinari says family comes first. Hockey is not far behind. The Long Island, New York, native played in college and today referees for youth, high school and amateur leagues about twice a week. “On the days I know that I’ll be skating, I have an extra bounce in my step,” he says. 

MACVB Annual Educational Conference finally reaches the shores of Mackinac Island.

As I rode in the carriage from the Shepler’s Ferry terminal to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, my mind wandered to a scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” In said scene, King Arthur and his sidekick, Patsy, approach a castle while galloping and banging coconuts together. After a few moments passed and my mind wandered back to the tree-lined streets of the island, I realized it was the clippety-clop of the draft horses pulling our carriage that brought on my thoughts of Python.


First came COVID. Then came the tornado.

The northern Michigan community of Gaylord was just starting to rebound from the pandemic with its groups and events business as a new season was getting underway when a rare EF3 tornado with estimated wind speeds between 136 and 165 miles per hour struck May 20.

Two people were killed and at least 44 were injured, according to official reports at the time. West Michigan meteorologist Bill Steffen said it was the strongest tornado to strike in the U.S. that month. 


A conference or convention venue might be described by meeting planners as offering ease and convenience for multiple reasons. It may be because its address is easily accessible from numerous compass points. Or perhaps it’s the destination—with a variety of opportunities for activities and entertainment close-by. And of course, it could be that the venue itself offers a peaceful, easy setting with all the comforts you could want. 

Well, at Treetops Resort, it’s all of the above.