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Larry Alexander: A Guiding Force

By Megan Gosch

If you’d have told a young Larry Alexander, president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau (DMCVB), that he’d spend his career making memories, he wouldn’t have believed you. 

Alexander was a pre-med student at University of Houston when he learned his mother was seriously ill. “It became obvious. I couldn’t wait 13 years to launch a career and help my family. I knew I needed a switch. I just didn’t know what to do,” says Alexander. He met with the university’s dean of counseling, who spent a year testing Alexander to help him determine a new career fit.

“He gave me every conceivable test there was. When we finally got to hospitality, I never looked back,” he says. “He said, ‘30 years from now you want to look back and say you enjoyed it.’ And I can honestly say, after nearly 50 years in the industry, I have.”

Since then, he’s worked tirelessly to turn out impressive results. He became Westin Hotels & Resorts’ first African American general manager by the age of 29, and in his 22 years with the DMCVB, he’s helped guide the region through some of its toughest times to build buzz, raise the city’s profile and advocate for the industry. From the establishment of the Detroit Sports Commision and the landing of international events like Super Bowl XL and the NCAA Men’s Final Four, to the stewardship and development of the TCF Center (which saw increased revenue over 500 percent under his leadership) and key bids won for major events and conventions, Alexander has aimed high and delivered through the years.

With the production of award-winning events and the successful push of DMCVB’s “Detroit, America’s Great Comeback City” revitalization-themed campaign (which earned worldwide recognition and helped boost regional tourism) Alexander hasn’t shied away from a creative challenge either. “There’s nothing mundane about this job. It’s that creative side that gives us the opportunity to do something people haven’t seen before,” says Alexander. “Our product has always been our people, and the creativity they bring to the table is what makes the memories people remember for the rest of their lives. It’s not always easy, but that’s where the magic happens. That’s what this work is all about.”

No matter the task at hand, Alexander has approached his work knowing what matters most. “I know this industry is a 24/7 job, but in a fast-paced world where we’re communicating more by fingers and thumbs than face-to-face, we’ve got to remember it’s about the people we’re trying to connect and the people who helped get us there,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate to work with some incredibly talented people and I’m grateful to every one of them for being a part of that work.”

As Alexander prepares for retirement, he most looks forward to a bit of travel and some uninterrupted time with his family. “It’s all been a truly rewarding, enjoyable journey. I can honestly say that. And I’m looking forward to this next adventure as much as the last.”