Houston First Corporation

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Houston First Corporation is a local government corporation that operates performing arts and convention facilities in Texas' largest city. These venues include the George R. Brown Convention Center, Wortham Theater Center, Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, Miller Outdoor Theatre. Houston First also owns the city's largest hotel, the 1,200-room Hilton Americas-Houston.

Houston First represents the consolidation of the former City of Houston Convention & Entertainment Facilities Department and the Houston Convention Center Hotel Corporation. Houston First was established by Houston City Council on June 1, 2011, and went into effect on July 1, 2011.[1]

After Houston City Council approved the creation of Houston First, Mayor Annise D. Parker said the consolidation was undertaken to create operational efficiencies and to take advantage of “business practices that will make it easier to maintain and improve the GRB and ensure it stays in cutting-edge condition.”

In January 2012, Houston First unveiled a new 2025 master plan for the convention center that called for expansion to the north and south of the building along with at least one additional convention center hotel.[2][3] Houston First entered into an agreement with RIDA Development Corporation to develop a 1,000-room Marriott Marquis near the north end of the convention center.

In June 2014, Houston First and the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau officially joined forces as a single, clear voice for the City of Houston. The alignment was designed to create a central, one-stop organization for promoting Houston as a prime convention and tourism destination. The unified entity now operates out of Partnership Tower, which opened on September 12, 2016, adjacent to the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Construction was completed and the hotel opened on December 26, 2016, just in time for Houston to host Super Bowl LI in February 2017. The master 2025 plan also called for the boulevard in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center to be converted into a pedestrian plaza. The new Avenida Plaza opened on December 16, 2016.


In addition to the downtown convention center and the 1,200-room Hilton Americas, properties falling under the auspices of Houston First include Wortham Theater Center, Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, Jones Plaza, Miller Outdoor Theatre, Theater District Parking, Sesquicentennial Park, Root Memorial Square, Talento Bilingue de Houston and several other smaller park and performing arts facilities.[4][5]


David Mincberg chairs Houston First’s Board of Directors. He was appointed by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner to succeed Ric Campo in July 2016. Mincberg is CEO of Houston-based Flagship Properties Corporation. Dawn R. Ullrich is president and chief executive officer of the organization.

Board Members

• David Mincberg, chairman, Flagship Properties Corporation

• Phyllis Bailey, 3B Resources Group

• Alex Brennan-Martin, Brennan's of Houston

• Katy Caldwell, Legacy Community Health Services

• C. Fernando Cuellar, Hilton University of Houston

• Irma Diaz-Gonzalez, Employment & Training Centers, Inc.

• Harry Greenblatt, Pyramid Hotel Group

• Desrye M. Morgan, Mesirow Financial

• Paul Puente, Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council

• Bobby Singh, Isani Consultants

• David L. Solomon, Condera Advisors

• Gerald Womack, Womack Development and Investment

City Council Advisory Members (Non-Voting)

• Dave Martin, District E

• David W. Robinson, At-Large Position 2

Senior Staff

• Dawn R. Ullrich, president & CEO

• Mike Waterman, executive vice president

• Mario Ariza, chief operating officer - theaters

• Brenda Bazan, chief financial officer

• Paul Casso, vice president of event service

• Holly Clapham-Rosenow, chief marketing officer

• Rick Ferguson, senior vice president - film

• Jorge Franz, senior vice president - tourism

• Julie Gorte, senior adviser, tourism development

• Mary Ann Grant, chief information officer

• Lisa Hargrove, general counsel

• Robert Jackson, senior vice president - public policy

• Peter McStravick, chief development officer

• Roksan Okan-Vick, senior vice president - regional product development

• Judi Quesonova, vice president of client services

• John Rolfe, chief administrative officer

• John Solis, senior vice president - sales

• Luther Villagomez, chief operating officer - convention center

• Pamela Walko, senior executive assistant

Houston's mayor appoints and City Council confirms Houston First's board members.


  1. ^ http://www.chron.com/default/article/Government-corporation-to-run-Houston-conventions-1617456.php
  2. ^ http://www.chron.com/business/article/Officials-to-unveil-sweeping-plan-for-convention-2434156.php
  3. ^ http://www.chron.com/opinion/editorials/article/Prospects-and-pitfalls-of-a-new-Convention-2446916.php
  4. ^ http://www.chron.com/default/article/Government-corporation-to-run-Houston-conventions-1617456.php
  5. ^ [1]"Government corporation to run Houston’s convention, events venues," Houston Chronicle.

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