Doug Greenway has devoted his entire professional life to making the community of Mitchell a better place.
Now he's going to try to make the ultimate Mitchell destination even better. Greenway, the incoming Corn Palace director, will start steering the facility's operations on Monday in his first day on the job.
“I have a passion for the city of Mitchell and the Corn Palace, and it’s such a meaningful, iconic facility for our city and the region,” Greenway said. “I’m excited to work with the entire staff to improve the Corn Palace experience and make sure that every event provides a good experience.”
Greenway replaces Scott Schmidt, who resigned from the Corn Palace director position in August after three years on the job. He'll begin with a starting salary of $79,963. The director position is responsible for leading the city-owned facility, which hosts concerts, sporting events and banquets throughout the year, along with drawing more than 200,000 visitors annually. In addition, the summer months include an expanded gift shop and organizing the annual Corn Palace Festival along Main Street.
When the Mount Vernon native first stepped foot on Dakota Wesleyan University’s campus in 1983, he felt right at home in Mitchell. After playing football and studying business at DWU, Greenway journeyed into education.
Over the last 30 years, Greenway has worked as a teacher at Hanson and Mitchell high schools and spent the last 17 years at Mitchell Technical Institute as an educator and administrator. Although he will be transitioning from his role at MTI, where he was the director of advanced technical education, he’s eager to bring the valuable leadership qualities he developed during his education career to the Corn Palace.
“As a project manager at MTI, I have a lot of valuable experience in working together with a team to achieve a common goal,” Greenway said. "I'll miss the relationships I've built in my time in education and administration."
While he’s aware a new set of challenges await him at the Corn Palace, Greenway said it's part of why he accepted the position. Perhaps the biggest challenge of all, Greenway said, will be reducing the annual deficit Mitchell’s main tourist attraction endures.
According to City Administrator Stephanie Ellwein, the Corn Palace operated on a deficit of roughly $228,000 in 2018, while its expected to see a deficit of roughly $370,000 for 2019.
“It’s no secret the Corn Palace has not been a profitable venture for the city, and my job will be looking for ways to decrease the deficit and generate revenue,” he said. “That could mean more events, or activities taking place during the busy tourist season in the summer.”
Ellwein was on the hiring committee that picked Greenway, and said she’s confident he will be an asset to the Corn Palace.
“I think the city of Mitchell is fortunate to have someone coming in who has a great professional background and leadership experience that we can call upon to grow the Corn Palace for the community,” Ellwein said of Greenway.
Rather than coming in and implementing drastic changes to the operations of the Corn Palace, Greenway said he intends to analyze how things are being done before he begins suggesting new ideas. But that’s not to say the 54-year-old doesn’t have unique ideas up his sleeve already.
From adding retail pop-up booths inside the Corn Palace lobby during sports games and concerts to exploring opportunities for hosting more summer events, Greenway is confident there are ways the facility can add more profit.
“Those pop-up boutiques that are set up in malls are popular, and it could be a seasonal thing we offer, but we could potentially cater to small or local businesses by giving them an opportunity to rent a pop-up-like boutique during a busy event or game,” Greenway said.
Greenway also spent five years as a Corn Palace Entertainment Board member, allowing him to become familiar with the day-to-day operations of the building. With the volume of concerts and events the city-owned facility hosts each year, Greenway emphasized how important it is to recognize what type of entertainment options the community would like to see.
“Bringing entertainment that appeals to as much of the Mitchell demographic as possible will be a challenge, but it’s something we need to do to compete with the growing list of entertainment options that are a short hour away in Sioux Falls,” he said.
Greenway has plenty of trust in the current Corn Palace staff, which he said will help ease any learning curves along the way. Greenway’s youngest sons, Justin and Jason, both worked as decorators under Corn Palace Maintenance Supervisor Jeff Hanson in previous summers. Raising three children in the community with his wife, Janet, Greenway said his family support for taking on the job has been tremendous.
Be it the one-of-a-kind architectural design, artistically aesthetic murals or its unique history, Greenway said the Corn Palace will always be a special place for the community and the thousands of tourists who visit each year. With Phase II of the Corn Palace Plaza now underway, capitalizing on the opportunities the outdoor feature could create is another mission for Greenway.
“The murals are a big part of the Corn Palace, and it’s why a lot of tourists come to see this unique, historic building,” Greenway said. "The plaza opens up opportunities to attract more people."
The pressure of leading the Corn Palace, a building with public expectations, is something Greenway will need to adapt to, he said.
Despite the challenges and changes that await, Greenway is anxious to start. With the Hairball concert taking place Nov. 9, he will get a sense of organizing a popular concert in his first weekend on the job.
“I’m excited, and I want to bring that passion and excitement to the Corn Palace to make the facility and community a better place,” he said.