The new general manager of the TRAC event center wants to see the 20-year-old facility change with the times.
Tom French, 41, took over July 1, replacing Troy Woody, who resigned to focus on his solar business.
“My predecessor has done a great job of getting TRAC to where it is today,” French said.
“As Pasco and Franklin County grow, TRAC has to grow with it,” he added. “We have to reshape what we do here to stay current with the times. We have meetings about it. It’s just staying relevant in the marketplace with what the community is wanting now.”
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That means TRAC will look at what events have worked in the past and what hasn’t. French is looking at different sporting, agriculture and exposition events, and even concerts at the facility.
The 150,000-square-foot TRAC, off Road 68 in Pasco, features two 40,000-square-foot halls. One hall is designed for conventions with a concrete floor and the other with a dirt surface that can be covered with a portable floor. It is operated by Franklin County, though its costs are shared with the city.
The facility has regularly lost money, but the $516,000 lost last year was thought by officials to be a record. The loss came in the wake of a State Auditor’s Office report that found problems related to the handling of TRAC’s cash machines.
The county outsourced TRAC’s ATMs, separated the management of the neighboring Franklin County Recreational Vehicle Park and hired a firm to conduct an outside audit of TRAC for $50,000. In the report released in April, Minneapolis-based CliftonLarsonAllen LLP faulted TRAC for a number of management deficiencies, including risk management, strategic planning and budgeting.
French has read the report. He looks forward to working with county agencies to correct any issues, he said.
French came to the county after working as compliance, safety and asset protection manager at Walmart’s distribution center in Grandview. He spent six years at Walmart, working at warehouses in both Hermiston and Grandview.
“I loved working for Walmart,” he said. “I had one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. We’re very community-oriented.”
He came to the Northwest from his native Chillicothe, Texas, while stationed in the Air Force at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.
His lack of experience at event centers is offset by the leadership he learned in the military, where he reached the rank of technical sergeant and was involved with weapons armament and security forces, he said.
Plus, TRAC has staff that is familiar with the business, he said.
“I probably couldn’t ask to walk into a better situation,” French said.
French is paid $94,530 annually. He was chosen over nine other applicants for the position, with commissioners Rick Miller and Bob Koch making the final decision. Commission Chairman Brad Peck recused himself from the discussion because of his relationship with one of the candidates.
Miller was “a little bit” concerned about French’s lack of experience with event centers, but was won over by his management skills, he said.
“He is a vibrant person,” Miller said. “I just think he has some good ideas and he impressed me with his ability to take TRAC further down the road to success.”
Miller would like to see sponsors help out with projects like replacing the dirt floor with concrete, which would improve TRAC business and, hopefully, decrease the subsidy the county and city pay for TRAC each year. He said French is out in the community working to make that happen.
“I think we can make TRAC work and he’s the guy that can do that,” Miller said.