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.