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2019 15 Over 50: Tracy VanderMeer, CMP

Tracy VanderMeer, CMP, works in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as founder of Grand ConnectionAs a 2019 15 Over 50 honoree, VanderMeer discusses her passion for the events industry.

What I do: I am responsible for leading the company's strategic direction, product development and technology initiatives. Since founding Grand Connection in 1999, I have been busy growing our market; developing and advancing our web-based registration management services; and providing client/attendee communications and mobile application. How I got here: I eventually found and loved working for a large travel agency for 12 years that also had a meeting planning division. One day in 1999, I took both the risk and the challenge and created my company, Grand Connection. We’ve continued to grow and improve ever since.  Greatest career accomplishment: I’m proud of navigating my company through the hell of 9/11 and the recession of 2008, and coming out the other side a stronger and more flexible company that has helped grow to the $1 million-plus company we are today. Impressive stats: Our registration and meeting management service at Grand Connection has grown from just a handful of events to more than 180 events annually involving 43,000 hotel reservations and producing $4.2 million in hotel revenue. Specific improvement I’ve made: Every couple of years, we evaluate and modify the technology services we provide to make sure we are providing the best options for our clients. Our latest addition to our arsenal of options is an interactive meeting application that interfaces with our registration system in real time. This gives attendees their personal event schedule at their fingertips. What I do outside of work: Every Wednesday, I volunteer as a facilitator for Kids Food Basket of Grand Rapids, a nonprofit organization that serves 8,000 meals daily to disadvantaged kids. I’m also an avid equestrian and spend considerable time with my horse and my fellow equestrians riding and camping at various horse-friendly state forests camping areas.