TEA Connect Blog

28 November 2017

TEA President’s Forums introduce member companies to operators, and foster business development

The TEA President’s Forums enable members of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) to have direct conversations with owner/operators and developers in the interest of business development.

Story by Judith Rubin, TEA communications. Photos for TEA by Ken Saba. 

They are the brainchild of Steve Birket of Birket Engineering. Birket launched the TEA President’s Forum during his two years as TEA International Board President (2015-2016), and continues to be the primary agent in organizing them today.

Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative,
speaks at the 2017 TEA President's Forum. Other
Universal executives participating included
Steve Blum, SVP Engineering and Safety;
Brawner Greer, Business & Legal Affairs at Universal Studios;
Dan Memis, SVP Finance and Administration at Universal Creative; 
Mike Harrington, VP, Engineering and Safety at Universal Studios;
and Paul Osterhout, VP at Universal Parks and Resorts 

The first TEA President’s Forum was piloted in November 2015 at Universal Studios. Its success led to planning more, on a broader scale.

SeaWorld Orlando hosted the second TEA President’s Forum in November 2016. It attracted a full house of TEA members for presentations from, and meetings with creative executives Anthony Esparza, Brian Morrow and other representatives of SeaWorld’s Deep Blue Creative studio.

November 12, 2017 saw not one but two more TEA President’s Forums – one with Universal Creative, largely focused on opportunities at Universal Beijing, and the other with Wanda CTI, focusing on a dozen projects in the works. Both were very well attended, successful dialogs with full participation on the part of TEA members and top executives from both Universal and Wanda. Birket had sought to organize the forum with Wanda since attending the grand opening of Hefei Wanda Cultural Tourism City in 2016, and after numerous conversations the idea became reality. 

TEA’s growth over past years in size, global reach and impact has helped foster stronger relationships with operators and developers and put the association in a position to engineer gatherings such as the President’s Forums.

For Birket, “It speaks to the founding mission of TEA, bringing owners and vendors together to be better at this business. We need one another. The owners need vendors and suppliers; the vendors need opportunities. Everything TEA does is really about being able to do business. That’s why this is so key. To get TEA members in front of owners - the key people, the doorway to the projects – to find out what those potential clients are looking for and what steps they need to take to earn contracts with them – that’s the foundation of what we do, what we want to do. We bring the industry together.”

TEA President's Forum: Doing Business with Wanda.
Left to right: Wen Cao, Theme Park Department Engineer;
Hongtao Liu, Cultural Tourism Institute Vice President;
TEA Immediate Past President Steve Birket, Birket Engineering;
Yuan Wang, Cultural Tourism Institute President;
Qi Xiao, Performing Arts Production Deputy General Manager;
Ying Yang, Exterior Design Institute Vice President;
Yuan Yao, Theme Park Department Vice President.

In addition to being consistent with TEA’s role and mission to bring clients together with creatives, vendors and suppliers, the President’s Forums are a good fit with the project process that is characteristic of the industry, in which teams of individual contractors are brought in for a specific project, and then move on to the next. “Operators want to have access to the largest and best qualified vendor pool they can have,” said Birket. “They want world-class vendors. They need access to them; they need to know who they are. It’s all about team-building, the contracting process and knowing who has the experience. The TEA membership is that vendor pool. And – like our members - TEA goes where the work is. With a newer operator such as Wanda and the rate at which our industry is growing in China, we need to embrace it. We need to have these conversations; to talk about the process and learn from one another."

Building better relationships, and mutual respect and acknowledgment between owner and supplier are also key to TEA mission and culture. “We’re fostering a healthy dialog,” said Birket. “It’s healthy for the owner: they get qualified vendors. It’s healthy for TEA members: they get connected to clients and projects. It’s healthy for the industry because it results in a better and more innovative product. It’s healthy for TEA because it perpetuates what we are here to do and brings real value to the membership. It brings us all together.”

Looking ahead, Birket has plans to continue building the program. “We will do more TEA President's Forums in the near future, and are already in several conversations,” he said. “We welcome inquiries and ideas from other operators and developers who would like to get involved.”

Photo galleries: Universal forum photosWanda forum photos.

Posted by Judy Rubin

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