A long, strange trip
How Matt McLean went from working for the studio that recorded Pearl Jam’s first album to working as the Director of the Marshfield Convention and Visitors Bureau
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — How does a person go from working his way up at a prominent recording studio in Seattle to
becoming the director of the Marshfield Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB)? If it is possible to bridge these two career paths with a single word that caused the transition, it would be “Napster.”
Matt McLean is Marshfield’s director of the CVB. He was born in a small town in eastern Montana and grew up loving music. In his early 20s, he moved to Portland to start his career as a musician while also working in a record store.
“I wanted to move to Seattle, Washington to be a grunge rocker guy, but I ended up moving to Portland kind of
randomly and played music out there,” McLean said.
During this time McLean attended school for audio production and got his degree in audio recording engineering. From there he started working at a renowned recording studio in Seattle.
“I had kind of worked my way up to being an assistant engineer in a pretty well known studio in Seattle that had recorded Pearl Jam’s first record,” he said.
McLean had established himself in the field of his choosing, but when file sharing companies like Napster rose to prominence in the music industry, his studio like many others ran into financial difficulties.
Napster allowed for the free exchange and downloading of music. Many traditional companies, like the studio McLean worked at, were forced to close because much of the music they produced could now be downloaded or shared at no cost.
After his studio closed, McLean took a job over the holidays selling stereos at a high-end store. There he met a customer who was the vice president and general manager of three hotels in downtown Seattle.
“A couple weeks later I was working for him doing hotel sales and marketing,” McLean said.
The new position marked McLean’s entry into the marketing and hospitality industry. He would also meet his wife Huong during his time in Seattle, and they would eventually move to Atlanta together as she landed a new position. In Atlanta, Huong worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As time passed, Huong wanted to develop her career and move closer to her family, which resided in Minneapolis. One of her co-workers in Atlanta was from Marshfield and suggested the Marshfield Clinic as a good place to work. Huong accepted a position as an associate research scientist at the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation.
Once in Marshfield, McLean brought his résumé to the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MACCI), hoping that his background in hospitality and marketing would help land him a new job. It was suggested he meet with the then director of the CVB, Sharon Kern. The CVB office is located inside of the MACCI headquarters, so McLean stopped in to speak with her.
“I wandered in and kind of tell her, ‘Here’s my résumé. This is what I do. What do you think would be a good fit?’” McLean said.
Kern responded, “Well, you know I’m retiring in a couple of months.”
McLean’s journey from assistant engineer at a Seattle recording studio to director of the Marshfield CVB was now complete.
What is the Marshfield Convention and Visitors Bureau?
McLean started with the CVB in February of 2013, coinciding with the time that it officially became an independent limited liability company. The CVB began as a city committee and has existed in Marshfield for 22 years, McLean said.
“We didn’t actually become our own legal entity until about two years ago,” McLean said.
He said the mission of the CVB is to “bring visitors to Marshfield to help spur economic development with hotels and restaurants primarily. Our overall goal is to try to attract the overnight visitor.”
To attract visitors, McLean works with many groups in the community, including sports teams that may host a tournament in the Marshfield area or businesses that may hold a conference, types of events that bring in out-of-town guests who in turn patronize local hotels, shops, and restaurants.
A key selling point when trying to attract visitors is Marshfield’s convenient location, McLean said.
“One of our biggest elements here is that we’re central in the state. If you have a state association or state businesses, people can come here, and it’s less time to drive,” said McLean.
McLean said some of the attractions he markets to potential visitors are Jurustic Park and the Vox Concert Series. Soon McLean will be able to promote the new grizzly bear pen, which is slated to begin construction at Wildwood Zoo in the spring of 2015. The CVB donated $75,000 toward the bear pen project and will run contests to name the bears once they arrive in Marshfield.
Many Wisconsin cities have the advantage of close proximity to a lake and can base their tourism efforts around water activities. In Marshfield, McLean said, “We have to be a little more creative.”
McLean also closely watches the development of downtown Marshfield.
“I think a strong downtown is a pretty critical tourism element,” McLean said. “It really gives life to a town when the downtown is kind of vibrant, and I think we’re working on it. I think we’re better off than some folks, but there’s still quite a bit of work to do I think to make it a really vibrant scene.”
The CVB’s board of directors votes on which projects to grant money to and how much money will be allocated to each project it supports. A non-profit organization, the CVB is funded by hotel room taxes collected within the city.