New El Tour CEO Shares Her Vision for the Race’s Future

New El Tour CEO Shares Her Vision for the Race’s Future

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(gentle music) Organizers of El Tour de Tucson, are gearing up for
November’s race, with kickoff events for
cyclists and open registration. It’s also El Tours 37th
year and its first ever, with new CEO,
Charlene Grabowski. We spoke to Grabowski
about her vision for one of Tucson staple events. Tell me how it is
that you came here. – So I just love the community. I retired here in
January of 2018. But I’ve been here since 2013. And I was failing at retirement, I was actively involved with
the American Heart Association and met some people. And then I was
involved with El Grupo, the youth development
organization, that uses cycling to
help kids achieve. And through that
many of the people, who were in the bicycling
community got to know me as a business leader. And so I got a call,
would I come and help El Tour de Tucson turn around? – How do you envision
that moving forward? I mean, you’re very
new into the position. – Yeah, so it’s eight weeks,
we’ve done a lot already. The people, we’ve
looked at each of them as individuals and said,
“What are their strengths, “and let’s plug them for the
work that we need to do.” So we we’ve done that
with our people resources. From a process perspective,
I have a very good friend, I used to work with in Intuit,
who’s a Master Black Belt, her name is Penny Tijin. And she has come to us, and is helping us
map every process. Such that we have now
standard operating processes, in terms of
everything that we do. And then third, we are focused
on marketing and social. And in order to do that
we needed to actually take our technology to
a different level. So we have a wonderful company,
DakotaPro that has come in, and given us upgrading
our internet service and KGB communications is
giving us free computers. And so the community
has just rallied, everybody wants this to happen. So I feel responsible
to make it happen. – And the tour’s 36 years it
has raised millions of dollars. – Over $100 million
with matching funds from different organizations. Specifically, Bill and Melinda
Gates through the rotary, as well as lots of
other organizations. We’re very proud of that. – Financio woes put the events in the spotlight
earlier this year. Perimeter Bicycling, the
nonprofit behind El Tour, owed Pima County $180,000
for last year’s race. By April the board announced it’s successfully
settled its dues. But most recently there was a
debt that needed to be paid. How exactly did it come to that? – In the Catholic Church
and in organizations that are in the work
of doing mission work, there’s a saying no
money, no mission. And I believe what
happened here was, there was such an outpouring
of give, give, give. That we needed a little
responsibility and maturity, and work to take a look
at our own organization and say, but what do we need
to host this amazing ride. And if I could say
this is a host, meaning the ride
itself is there, for charities to
use to raise money. And so we have over
23 charities this year that are using the ride to
raise money for themselves. I mean, it’s so benevolent
in its way of being, but when even in that
kind of organization, you need to make sure you’re taking care
of your costs first. – I know this year El Tour
has a GoFundMe account. You’re also trying to drum up
support amongst the sponsors. How much does an event like
this actually take to put on? – Well, it varies. But it’s about $900,000
to pull this event off. – Wow, this year how
are you measuring your success thus far? You’ve only been on the
job a couple of months, but you have a big
task to get ready for. – Well, it’s been public about
how much money is out there. So 175 from Banner, 150 from
Rio Nuevo, 280 from the county. We’re $500,000 plus when
we add everything else up. So we’re over halfway there. – This is a tough question,
but there are people in this community who
sometimes view El Tour as a bit of a nuisance
because it’s traffic, there’s cycling, there’s a
lot of activity going on. What do they need to know
about the inner workings of an organization
like this one? – So it is a nuisance however,
it’s an amazing nuisance. When you think about we’re
here riding for charities. So you know what, please
be a little bit forgiving. At the same time, we take a lot
of care, to focus on safety. And that safety comes
with blocking roads, and having appropriate
amount of police officers, and asking people to
be patient with us because safety is number one. Absolutely number one and
I will make no compromises, in any way, shape
or form around that. So I would just ask you
to be patient with us. Yup, we’re a little bit of
a nuisance, but think about what it’s doing for the
community as a whole. – Okay, Charlene Grabowski from
El Tour de Tucson thank you. – You’re welcome.

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