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LAS VEGAS -- On the day the World Market Center officially announced construction on the largest of its planned eight buildings, operators of the home furniture convention complex named a furniture industry veteran with a strong connection to the local community as its chief executive officer.
Harvey Dondero, who has spent 32 years in the home furnishing industry, will become the World Market Center's first chief executive officer. The 58-year-old Dondero, who was born and raised in Las Vegas, had been president and chief executive officer of Broyhill Furniture and was on the World Market Center's original advisory committee.
"I've always been a proponent and supporter of World Market Center," Dondero said Wednesday. "The ownership wanted someone with industry experience. I've spent a lot of time with the owners over the past few months to understand their vision and objectives."
Dondero resigned his position with Broyhill in June. The manufacturer is a subsidiary of Furniture Brands International, one of America's top three home furniture companies.
Dondero, who lived in Greensboro, N.C., had served in chief executive positions with other furniture manufacturers since the mid-1990s.
"Harvey has had many years as an exhibitor and buyer, which has given him the insight as to how these markets should work to make it more friendly and meaningful to buyers and exhibitors," World Market Center Managing Partners Jack Kashani and Shawn Samson said in a statement.
Dondero said more could be done with the World Market Center beyond the twice-a-year trade shows. He is looking to boost programs that will increase visitation.
The next Las Vegas Market will be held Jan. 29 through Feb. 2. Previous shows have brought in an average of 50,000 attendees; the first Las Vegas Market in July 2005 had an attendance of 62,000. World Market Center executives say the nongaming economic impact of the semiannual shows on the community has been almost $200 million.
"We're going to expand this concept beyond the two markets," Dondero said. "This is a permanent marketplace and we hope to facilitate a change throughout the industry. We want to explore ways for the exhibitors to get more use out of this facility."
The position with the World Market Center is homecoming for Dondero.
His father, the late Harvey Dondero Sr., was a longtime administrator and educator with the Clark County School District. An elementary school in Spring Valley is named in his honor. His mother is former Clark County Commissioner Thalia Dondero, now a member of the university system Board of Regents.
He said it wasn't hard to decide to move home to Las Vegas.
"I guess I've always been looking for this opportunity," Dondero said. "Just imagine waking up one morning and finding out you career is now centered in your hometown."
Dondero's hiring was met with praise outside the furniture community. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said he was happy someone with both ties to the furniture industry and Las Vegas would be leading the development.
"Harvey Dondero was the first person I called five years ago when World Market Center was first being discussed," Goodman said. "I know his knowledge and experience will take the project to even greater heights."
Meanwhile, World Market Center officials said work has started on the third building on its 57-acre site near downtown. The $300 million Building C will have 2.1 million square feet of convention and meeting space and be 16 stories tall.
World Market Center operators said a quarter of the building has already been preleased for the July 2008 Las Vegas Market.
"We have a very strong leasing momentum in all facets of the industry," Kashani said. "It truly is a vote of confidence for gathering critical mass in Las Vegas as the pre-eminent marketplace for the industry."
The original building in World Market Center has 1.3 million square feet and is 10 stories tall. The second tower, which is expected to be completed in January, has 1.6 million square feet and is 16 stories tall.
When fully developed, World Market Center will cost $3 billion, include 12 million square feet of meeting space and be the world's largest trade-show complex. The eight buildings will surround a central plaza and the buildings will be connected by sky bridges.
World Market Center spokeswoman Dana Pretner said construction would begin on a new building every 18 months. The final building is scheduled for completion in 2013.
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