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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Marinette Co. Tourism Alliance Elects Officers

After several months of meetings aborted for lack of a quorum, Marinette County Tourism Alliance had a long and productive meeting Thursday evening, March 8 that included reelection of Supervisor Nick Lakari as chair and Becky DeWitt as vice chair, seating several new members, and reports on the recent Governor’s Conference on Tourism by Lakari, Amy Shaffer and Tourism Director Jamie Darge.

The group agreed to pay $850 toward the cost of signs Peshtigo Chamber of Commerce will erect on the Hwy. 41 by-pass to help while the Peshtigo River Bridge in the city is being rebuilt, and $500 to help sponsor the second annual Marinette Logging and Heritage Festival July 14-15.

Alliance committee members present at the start of the meeting were Supervisors Lakari and Shirley Kaufman, as representatives of the County Board’s Economic Development Committee; DeWitt, representing the City of Marinette; Treasurer Renee Kresl, representing Peshtigo Chamber of Commerce; Peggy Hansen, of the Coleman Cougar Country Business Association; Shaffer, representing Crivitz Business Association, and Shirley Prudhomme and Melissa Wason as representatives of the public at large.

Supervisor John Guarisco, who represents Crivitz Rec Association, was out of town for a tourism trade show and did not attend and Wausaukee representative Jim Brien was absent and excused, as was Phil Haag.

Later in the meeting Deva Bhatt, manager of the Super 8 Motel, was added to the Alliance as the Marinette/Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce representative for a 2-year term, and was seated immediately. Membership of Kim DeForge for a 2-year term as the City of Niagara representative was accepted, and Catherine Cluff of the Four Seasons Resort was approved to fill one of the two remaining at-large positions, leaving one vacancy. Lakari reported they confirmed former member Peggy Landwehr in December, but she subsequently switched jobs and moved out of state.

According to the group’s by-laws, election of officers should have been held in January but there was no quorum for a meeting. Incumbent Chair Lakari was returned to office by unanimous vote. Shaffer and DeWitt were nominated for the vice chair position, and after the eight members present voted by paper ballot there was a tie. The tie was settled by drawing names and DeWitt was returned to office.

Before the vote each candidate briefly described her involvement in tourism and the county in general.

Shaffer is a lifelong county resident, and with her husband, Mark, owns and operates Shaffer Park Resort, Supper Club and Motels at Crivitz and is a certified real estate broker with an office at the motel. A longtime member of the Alliance, she also serves on the Wisconsin Restaurant Association Board of Directors, and is their NE Chapter President. She is an active member of the Crivitz Business Association, is vice president of Crivitz Recreation Association, secretary of the Sandstone Flowage Association, and serves as the Broker/Realtor member of Marinette County Land Information Council. She is currently a candidate for Marinette County Board.

DeWitt also was born and raised in Marinette County and purchased a bed and breakfast in the City of Marinette in 2009. She became the city’s representative on the Alliance in 2009. She said she recently retired from the Wisconsin Division of Corrections and now works part time at a dog grooming shop in Peshtigo and has been spending more time promoting tourism in Marinette County and the City of Marinette.

The terms end in December. During time for public comment which immediately followed elections there was discussion on possibly changing the by-laws to allow for two year terms of officers who would be elected following County Board reorganization in April. It was noted that one year is barely time to get acclimated to an office. County Supervisors are elected for two years in April of even-numbered years, and Lakari and Kaufman may or may not be reappointed to the Economic Development and Tourism Committee after new supervisors are seated.

John Chadwick and Steve Votis from Peshtigo Chamber of Commerce explained the city will be divided for lack of a bridge for four months this summer, starting about June 4, when the Peshtigo River Bridge is rebuilt. Drawdown for the work will begin on May 15. Anyone wanting to get from one side of the city to the other will need to take the new Hwy. 41 by-pass and come back in from the other side. Votis said the Chamber has already begun a shop local campaign that will continue after the bridge reconstruction is done. For the duration of construction they have made arrangements to rent two semi-trailers at a nominal fee from John Veriha and will put signs on them advising motorists which exit to use depending on which half of the city they need to access. The trailers will be parked so they can be read by northbound motorists at the southern edge of the city on Eagle Express property, and for southbound travelers at a spot before the northern exit, possibly at Erik’s Garden Center.

The signs will cost about $850 each, Votis said. Peshtigo Industrial Development Corporation has agreed to pay for one of the signs.

Prudhomme recalled past rulings that the county dollars which fund the Alliance can be used to help individual communities provided the logo is used and there is advertising value for the county. She felt spots on the highway would be good for the entire county, in that they would catch motorists shortly before they drive into Michigan or south into Oconto County.

Kresl said the signs will have the tourism’s Real North logo, as well as directions to Badger Park, the Peshtigo Fire Museum, and DNR and DOT offices in the Pine View Industrial Park in Peshtigo.

Kaufman asked who else they had contacted for funds, and was told the city has no money they want to give the Chamber. While there is some money in the Chamber treasury they want to use that for signs inside the city advising routes to individual businesses while the bridge and the downtown area in general are dismantled for reconstruction.

There was mention that Marinette, Crivitz and Coleman pretty much handled their own signage during fairly recent main thoroughfare reconstructions, as did Niagara while the bridge to Iron Mountain was out.

Further discussion, however, showed there was a difference in that none of the other communities was split by absence of a bridge, and nowhere was the distance so great to get from one side of the city to the other while the bridge is closed.

Motion to pay $850 toward the sign project was finally approved without dissent, with the provisio that the county and tourism logos appear on both signs. Money is to come from the $1,500 special projects fund in the Alliance budget.

There was a request from Judy Alwin for a contribution to the City of Marinette’s Logging and Heritage Festival to be held on July 14 and 15 on Stephenson Island. Last year, the first for what will hopefully become an annual event, the Alliance contributed $750 as a Silver Sponsor.

There was discussion on state Tourism JEM (Joint Marketing Effort) grants that should have been available as seed money for a new event, but apparently there was no timely grant application either year. Under the JEM program the state provides a percentage of startup money the first year, less the second year, and still less the third year. By the fourth year a successful event should be self supporting.

Kaufman said the City of Marinette has a huge pot of money from its room tax collections, and felt the city should fund the whole thing. She recalled the Alliance gave money last year

Darge said the festival staff learned from their mistakes last year and should have a better event this year, including a real lumberjack show.

Prudhomme reminded members that taxpayer dollars cannot be used for contributions, only for advertising, for example to help pay for signs, posters and brochures on which the Real North logo and other information appears. DeWitt said the Alliance was listed on the brochure last year as a silver sponsor.

Prudhomme felt there should have been applications for state tourist promotion money, and suggested the Alliance follow the state format and give declining amounts each year until the fourth year, when need for outside support should be gone if the event is successful.

She moved to allocate $500 for the project, with the same advertising requirements, with money to come from the Special Projects fund. That motion was approved without dissent. Prudhomme pointed out the two contributions left only $150 in the Special Projects fund for anything else that might come along for the remainder of the year. She was advised there is money elsewhere in the budget that could be transferred if necessary.

Kresl offered to share information with the Marinette group on Peshtigo’s successful conversion of Historical Days to a financially sound self supporting venture that actually makes a profit each year. She had briefly looked at the Marinette expenses and said there are many places where they could save money.

Lakari said his first impulse when the request came in was to not put it on the agenda, but then he decided the chair should not make that decision alone, but should leave it to be settled by the entire group.

Darge reported the Marketing Committee met in February and managed to settle some business.

Kresl presented financial reports, and said she is happy the county switched to the new method of paying bills without prior committee approval as many would otherwise be badly overdue. She and Darge reviewed contracts carried over from 2011 and adjusted budget figures accordingly.

Lakari, Darge and Shaffer reported briefly on the Governor’s Conference on Tourism held March 4 through 7 in Green Bay.

Darge said a main goal should be getting feedback from visitors, and spoke of the power of positive responses.

Shaffer said Gov. Scott Walker asked each county tourism department to submit an annual report. Wisconsin tourism advertising is to be based on two main concepts, first, that the state is believed to be friendly and fun, and second, that Wisconsin provides the best value for visitors. The Department of Arts has been merged with Tourism and tourism income for the state increased 20 percent for the biennium. Marinette County tourism shows a 6 percent return on investment, highest in the state. She described breakout sessions and speakers who said in general that a successful vacation is based on experience, memories, feelings and sharing...give them something to remember.

Lakari reported on the state tourism council meeting Sunday afternoon, and mission of the state Tourism Department to educate groups like this. Travel Green certification is available for $95 for the first year, and after that renewals are $95 for two years.

Darge reported attendance was up 19 percent at the Travel Adventure Show in Milwaukee, where she distributed 550 Marinette County Tourist guides, a full case of Crivitz guides, and over 500 Crivitz Rec visitor bags.

Before the meeting adjourned, Prudhomme asked that the next agenda include a request that members again be provided at each meeting with copies of the ads they were paying for.


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