Despite concerns expressed by clients and University of Memphis staff members, Dean John Pepin of the University of Memphis Fogelman College of Business and Economics insists that the Fogelman Executive Conference Center (FECC) must be outsourced, along with the soon-to-open Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management and the FedEx Emerging Technology Complex.
The FECC, which is used by such companies as St. Jude ChildrenÕs Research Hospital, FedEx, International Paper, and the Shelby County Board of Education as a conferencing and corporate training facility, was established 14 years ago as a nonprofit educational outreach to the community.
Pepin says that the Fogelman College of Business and Economics is hard pressed to cover any FECC deficits, caused in part by university-required contracts for housekeeping and food services and by recent renovations to the 51 hotel rooms in the FECC. As a solution, the FECC staff and operations may be outsourced to a management company.
Several longtime clients have expressed their concerns about the changeover. CREDO's Debbie Burnette, speculates that the costs will increase while the quality of service declines.
One training director of a major Memphis organization, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, says, "I do not see a for-profit organization managing with the same quality, customer service, and focus on the training and education community of Memphis as is presently done. Therefore I hope that the decision will not be made to sell off a very valuable community asset. That is more than the building. It is the focused service that makes the difference."
The FECC, which currently is booked ahead as far as 2003, had more than $2 million in revenue last year and regularly receives glowing evaluation reports of the services and staff. Current employees have not been guaranteed a position upon outsourcing and will no longer receive university benefits, such as free enrollment in classes.
Employees of the FECC have asked that the decision be postponed until Shirley Raines, the new U of M president, takes office in May and has a chance to review the situation.
Three companies have submitted bids to manage the facilities. Among them is Wilson Management, spearheaded by Kemmons Wilson, founder of the Holiday Inn Corporation, whose donation built the Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management.