Tina Wolfe, vice president of Hunt Investment Management, and Bob Ayoub, Mimco’s chief public relations officer

Tina Wolfe, vice president of Hunt Investment Management, and Bob Ayoub, Mimco’s chief public relations officer, organize the West Texas retail conference.

The organizers of the West Texas retail conference that brings hundreds of brokers and retail industry bigwigs to El Paso every year say having a closer hand in planning helped boost sponsors for this month’s event.

Westcom, formerly known as the West Texas Idea Exchange, will take place this year during the last week of October and feature keynote speakers, panels and an expo for retailers.

“It’s an opportunity for (retailers) to test the waters in El Paso before they commit to coming here,” said Bob Ayoub, chief public relations officer for Mimco.

The retail conference was formerly run by the International Council of Shopping Centers and was held in April last year.

Tina Wolfe, vice president of Hunt Investment Management, said they split from the ICSC because they wanted to be able to line up more sponsors and bring in paid speakers.

The event has about 25 sponsors, up from eight last year. And it was close to selling out and had about 180 of 250 seats sold by midweek, organizers said.

Ayoub said it was becoming more difficult to work with the ICSC on things like venue negotiations.

“They had a lot of restrictions and wanted to control everything,” Ayoub said. “That event, for the ICSC, was probably one of their small conferences, but we were always one of the most attended small conferences and we raised the most money.”

The event will feature several speakers, including a keynote by Corey Perlman, an author and speaker on using social media for business growth.

Other speakers include Sarah Quinlan, managing director of the Carolantic Fund; Jerry Pacheco, executive director of the International Business Accelerator; and James Payne, dean of the UTEP College of Business Administration.

Wolfe said she hopes the event can encourage more retailers to take a chance on El Paso and come to experience the city before passing on a borderland location.

Retailers look for where the houses are being built before entering a market, she said. For El Paso, that often means the Far Eastside where about 1,000 new houses were built last year.

“Retail follows rooftops,” said Wolfe, who is co-chair of the Westcom planning committee.

This year’s event will begin with a reception on Oct. 24 at the El Paso Community Foundation Room in Downtown.

The conference will kick off the following morning, Oct. 25, with a continental breakfast at the El Paso Convention Center, followed by an event welcome and opening remarks by Mayor Dee Margo.

Email El Paso Inc. reporter Sara Sanchez at sesanchez@elpasoinc.com or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 105.