By Chris and Jim Macinnes
Last week, members of the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Council joined Governor Whitmer, the Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and other recreation industry leaders to announce that Michigan will be entering the national Confluence Accords next month, making us the first in the Midwest to join this consortium of states dedicated to promoting the outdoor recreation industry.
By demonstrating our leadership in joining this coalition, we are solidifying our state’s commitment to prioritizing conservation and stewardship while continuing to build upon our economic and workforce development efforts.
In Northern Michigan, we recognize the value in fostering our outdoor recreation industry while building on Michigan’s reputation as a world-class travel destination. That is why the MEDC is involved in this alliance, as the agency that created the successful Pure Michigan campaign and is responsible for the promotion of leisure travel, economic progress and community development in the state.
Through this dynamic partnership, Michigan is ensuring industry, tourism and economic development work together to create opportunities and success for the people of our state.
As President and CEO of Crystal Mountain, we know firsthand the impact MEDC can have on a business and the surrounding community.
In 2015, MEDC awarded Crystal Mountain a Community Development Block Grant to support two of our major expansion projects at the resort.
Thanks to that support, Crystal Mountain was able to build a specialty grocery and retail space, a coffee bar and a combination of 25 new hotel rooms and suites. We also were able to construct eight new ski trails and a triple chairlift.
These projects have helped Crystal Mountain continue to attract new visitors and increased business opportunities to the resort. In total, visitor spending in communities throughout Benzie County exceeds $123 million and more than $1.8 billion throughout the surrounding region.
Crystal Mountain is not alone in this success thanks to support it has received from the MEDC. Here in the Northwest region of the state, the MEDC has supported businesses and community development projects of all kinds that attract visitors and families from around the world.
Consider, for example, the recent renovations of the historic Dilworth Hotel in downtown Boyne City; the Performing Arts Pavilion in Cadillac; the community square in downtown Ellsworth; and the historic Vogue Theatre in Manistee. Each of these are staples in their respective communities and contribute to making each place a great one to visit and enjoy. Support from MEDC for investment in these special places has helped make each of these communities more vibrant and resilient.
Tourism and economic development go hand in hand, and projects like these by the MEDC contribute to our region’s ability to attract families to visit and talented workers to live here. However, this support requires adequate resources and funding.
Take it from someone who has lived and breathed tourism and economic development in both our region and state over the last 35 years: Michigan needs a budget that responsibly balances our Pure Michigan, outdoor recreation and economic development initiatives, while at the same time investing in the type of infrastructure and workforce improvements that make our state an attractive tourism destination.
As budget negotiations continue over the coming weeks, I encourage our legislative leaders to come together to help support a responsible budget and build a Michigan where people want to live, work, visit and play.
About the author: Chris MacInnes is a member of the MEDC Executive Committee and is President of Crystal Mountain. Jim MacInnes is CEO of Crystal Mountain.