Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Longtime leader of Southland tourism bureau to step down

The longtime president and chief executive officer of a group working to boost tourism in the south and southwest suburbs will retire at the end of June.
Jim Garrett, who has held those jobs since 1996, said the move will give him and his wife more time to travel and visit with their children and grandchildren.
Previously the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau, it was recently rechristened as Visit Chicago Southland.
Garrett, a Frankfort resident, notified the group’s board of directors during its quarterly meeting last month. Visit Chicago Southland said it is narrowing the list of candidates to replace Garrett and will announce a new president and CEO next month.
“On behalf of the entire board of directors, we want to sincerely thank Jim for his 28 years of service and dedication in making Visit Chicago Southland not only one of the finest tourism organizations in the State of Illinois but in the nation,” Richard Brink, board chairman, said in a news release announcing Garrett’s retirement.
Garrett said Wednesday it was time “to slow down a little bit and look at other options to do in your life.”
He and his wife, Peggy, have three children and seven grandchildren, and retirement will afford them the time to visit with their family and travel.
He said they plan to stay put in the Southland, and he is considering going back to school to finish his master’s degree in business administration, although his plans are not yet set.
“It’s been extremely gratifying,” Garrett said of his tenure. “We focused on becoming more competitive in the marketplace in drawing events to the area.”
Southland casino
He said that the need for a casino had long been a top priority, and the opening this fall of the Wind Creek Chicago Southland casino in East Hazel Crest will help capture gamblers who now trek to casinos in northwest Indiana and Michigan.
“The facility is going to be incredible,” Garrett said. “It will be a major destination driver for our region.”
He said the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Chicago could also help hotels and other businesses in the south and southwest suburbs, with convention attendees staying in the area.
The tourism bureau played a key role in the renaming some years ago of the Lincoln Oasis in South Holland on the Tri-State Tollway, with it becoming the Chicago Southland Lincoln Oasis.
Garrett said the tourism agency has operated an information kiosk at the oasis for 25 years, and is going to install a new tourist information center there.
Although no longer having a hand in day-to-day operations of the tourism agency, Garrett said that he “will always be a booster and a cheerleader for the Southland.”
Garrett was previously executive director for the Cedar Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau; vice president for the Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau; and director of sales and marketing for the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.
During Garrett’s tenure, Visit Chicago Southland earned the 2024 Illinois Excellence in Tourism Award for Best Website by the Illinois Office of Tourism and received Diversity Inc’s 2011 Community Spirit Award.
Garrett individually received honors including the Illinois State Soccer Association’s Presidential Award and the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association’s 2007 Ambassador of Hospitality Award.

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