The Welcoming Committee: Theresa Cohagen specializes in bringing people and dollars to Mansfield
Everyone who lives in Mansfield already knows how great this community is. But those who don’t live here or know about what the city has to offer get to deal with Theresa Cohagen. She’s been the tourism manager for the Mansfield Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) since 2011. Whether it’s leisure or business travel, Cohagen knows how to market this town.
“The essential element of the Mansfield Convention & Visitors Bureau is to bring outside visitors into the city,” she says. So effectively, Cohagen’s job is to market the area’s hotels, meeting facilities, dining facilities and other attractions in order to generate revenue for the community.
“The Mansfield CVB currently markets to many different areas: leisure travel, business and state association travel, the SMERF market (Social, Military, Educational, Religious and Fraternal) all make up the majority of Mansfield’s current business.” She says she’s a “department of one” and so she works trade shows, cold calls, attends service events and also handles logistics for many types of groups that visit the area.
Cohagen’s been working for the city of Mansfield since 2006 and prior to becoming the tourism manager she was the city’s special event supervisor. Here she implemented events such as the Rockin 4th of July and Winter Walk. “As the city became more aware of the economic impact that we were missing out on with the Big League Dreams, the performing arts center and our school athletic facilities – which are better than most college campuses - they moved toward creating the tourism department in 2011.”
Her role today as tourism manager is an important job in Mansfield and Cohagen plays a pivotal role in bringing growing numbers of visitors and dollars into the city each year.
In the Cards
The tourism industry was really not such a stretch for Cohagen. She grew up in Las Vegas and was raised around family in the hospitality industry. “I literally used to hang out at the Showboat Hotel bowling alley and the Palace Station poker room,” she says of the golden days of Las Vegas when many casinos and hotels were family owned.
One summer she worked as a casino host, “I was a concierge for high rollers,” she says. “I had to have info readily available and be able to tell the guest the fun and exciting places to visit. I also waited tables and worked at a water park in high school. So I have many years in the hospitality industry.” She also spent time working in the clinical fitness industry, was nutrition coordinator at the City Club of Fort Worth and a group wellness manager at Baylor Hospital.
All of this experience, she says, has shaped her view of the CVB and special event world. She loves planning and organizing special events. “I have been in logistics whether as a nutritionist, event planner or manager for close to eighteen years.”
Playing for Keeps
Cohagen never stands still. She’s a one-woman department and by nature has to cover a lot of ground. She is always on the move “selling” Mansfield and what it has to offer visitors. That’s because Mansfield is competing for business with dozens of other cities both regionally and nationally.
On the job she is charged with overseeing a budget as well as all publications and advertising initiatives that promote the city. She calls on new and existing accounts and “sells” Mansfield at various trade shows. Once groups book and come to town, she is then on the ground servicing the events, handling logistics and planning, and working closely with the city and other local groups to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.
“My philosophy is to treat visitors as guests in your home and treat them like you would like to be treated when you travel,” she says.
Over the last four years, Cohagen says she has made significant progress in advancing Mansfield’s claim as a great destination city. She has streamlined the application process and improved the accountability systems. She revamped the promotional material that’s done internally (the department has won several state awards for it). And, in part because of her work, Mansfield has been awarded large events over other cities with bigger budgets and larger tourism departments.
“In the last two years we have hosted an NCAA national championship, NCAA super golf regional, several state baseball championships, the Futures Tennis Championship and the Spring Creek Basketball championship,” she says. She points out that Mansfield is making strides in the DFW region as a strong sports player. “The tourism industry is very competitive for those dollars and my job is to convince them to come to the metroplex first and then to choose Mansfield over the other cities in the region.”
On other fronts, she says she’s in the process of designating Mansfield as a Film Friendly city with the state of Texas, which would open the door for Mansfield to get new exposure in a different travel market.
“We just re-branded the department, ‘Visit Mansfield, Come for the Location, Stay for the Fun.’ The new campaign is getting a push this year (2014) and we are moving into the association and the competitive business market.” They’re online at visitmansfieldtexas.com.
But there remain some challenges. For example, she says, Mansfield needs a full-service hotel with meeting space. There are great facilities in the city, she says, but it’s lacking a full service hotel with catering options that would expand the reach and kind of visitor Mansfield could attract.
Cohagen loves being a part of the Mansfield community. “Mansfield has a quaint charm with a great downtown theatre, innovative park system and impressive school facilities.”
She’s also proud to be a part of generating revenue and says, “I view most visitors as potential residents or future business owners.” Who wouldn’t want to visit a city with that kind of welcoming philosophy?
Background/Training/Education: Born and raised in Las Vegas NV. Attended Southern Utah University on a talent scholarship
I moved to the north Texas area in 1994 when changing majors to study Clinical Nutrition. Graduate of Texas Woman’s University
Professional life: Spent nine years in the Clinical Fitness industry; Nutrition coordinator at the City Club of Fort Worth; Group wellness manager Baylor Hospital. In both positions I solicited sponsor donations, taught wellness and nutrition classes before moving into the government world with the city of Arlington as a program coordinator.
Current job title: Tourism manager since 2011
Other related jobs/experience/career: MAC manager 2006-2008; special events supervisor 2008-2011; (with the city of Mansfield since 2006)
Married: Matt Cohagen for 14 years
Children: Max Cohagen, 5 years old
Q&A with Mansfield’s Tourism Manager Theresa Cohagen
Theresa Cohagen is the tourism manager for the Mansfield Convention & Visitors Bureau. It’s her job to market the city and recruit all kinds of people and groups to come here. She loves everything about the job and relishes the challenge to beat out other cities. We had a chance to visit with her and discover a little about her outside of work. Here’s what we found out.
What do you like most about the community of Mansfield? The people that live in Mansfield have great pride in the city.
How do you spend your free time? Run, cycle, spend time with my family, travel.
Hobbies? Theatre, triathlons, running, decorating.
Interests? Traveling to different locations locally and abroad
Do you go to the movies? As much as possible.
Museums? Yes, my husband is a history buff so whenever we travel we visit local museums. Theater? Yes, I started out as a theatre major in college, so I see local theatre whenever possible.
What’s the last book you read? Sue Grafton.
Do you have a favorite quote? Not my circus, not my monkeys.
Who or what inspires you? People that take a stand even when it’s not popular.
Do you travel? Whenever we can.
Where? Europe, Mexico, I love the beach and the mountains and we just started RVing.
Favorite drink at Starbucks? Decaf Mocha with 2 splenda and whip.
One person in history you would most like to have lunch with? Just one…
Belong to professional/community organizations?
International Festival and Events Association
Meeting Planners International
National Travel Association
Dallas/Ft. Worth Area tourism Council (serve on the board of directors)
Mansfield Area Chamber of Commerce
Texas Association of Convention and Visitors Bureau
IFEA Gold Pinnancle –Best Sponsorship
TACVB- Best Advertising
TFEA- Best Radio Promotion
TRAPS- Event award for Tiki Triathlon