Guest Column: Fulfilling week shows snapshot of great things
One of the great joys of my position here at the Chamber and Tourism Bureau is the variety of different meetings and programs that I deal with on a daily and weekly basis. Although I have been working here in Gaylord in this capacity for more than 25 years (started when I was 14), I am still inspired and encouraged by the incredible things that are happening here in Gaylord.
Take last week for example. On Tuesday, the Chamber along with Otsego County Economic Alliance, hosted the second annual"State of The Community Luncheon"at the Otsego Club. We had more than 170 community leaders and decision makers in attendance to get an in-depth overview on the state of our city, economy, health care, education system, county and tourism industry.
I would like to thank each of the presenters for their thoughtful insights into each of those major areas of our economy. More importantly, I would like to borrow a phrase from former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and say that I am"blown away"by the quality and caliber of the leadership of each of those respective areas.Do you have any idea how lucky this community is to have that level of intelligence and leadership leading the charge in their respective areas?
In spite of the down economy the past four years, our city has been able to adjust and provide an incredible level of service with about a 30 percent reduction in city staff.
Our economic alliance, with the support of both business and government, has chased every grant out there, worked with major manufacturers and is pursuing a major change to our downtown.
Our local hospital has not only turned in some great years financially and added key medical services but is in the midst of adding clinics to outlying areas in Lewiston, Indian River and Elmira.
Gaylord Community Schools have seen a reduction in students and funds received from the state but have still managed to maintain a healthy fund balance, increase test scores for all grades and were recently named one of the top 10 systems in Michigan!
Otsego County, as well, has seen a huge reduction in budget, but has still continued to provide an incredible level of service with a substantial reduction in staff, increase the fund balance and reduction in overall debt.
The tourism industry has voted to voluntarily increase local assessments nearly doubling its marketing budget and has seen a huge increase in room sales and golf rounds. Further, the industry created a new brand and is looking as far away as Dallas, Texas to lure travelers. This will surely result in longer stays and greater expenditures.
Moving along to my day on Wednesday, I was able to be part of tourism marketing committee meeting that is looking at a number of major marketing initiatives that include receiving a major grant of $125,000 from the state for a major new public relations campaign. The marketing committee is made of local hotel and resort owners and managers and the level of cooperation amongst this group is inspiring. If there were a definition for the phrase"a rising tide raises all ships,"this would be it.
On Thursday, I spent the day with Leadership Otsego County class of 2013. This leadership program is an intense year-long program where students study the problems needs and solutions to every facet of Otsego County. These topics include the environment, government services, human services, education, history and the economy. In addition, they perform community service projects and take full-day classes on creativity and team building.
The session was the culmination of the program where students presented in-depth book reports, findings from their service projects and the presentation of leadership plans on how they will apply their skills to community, family and their careers. The level and depth of these presentations gives me great hope for the continuation of leadership in our county and region.
Finally, on Friday, I had the privilege and pleasure to review the building plans of our new Chamber and Tourism Bureau visitor center and office with our building committee. This major new initiative will provide a fun, modern new headquarters that will have a major impact on downtown Gaylord. Our new building will provide an excellent functional pace for both organizations for many generations.
While the week was exhausting and challenging, it was also a snapshot of the many great things happening in our County and the many good things yet to happen.
- Paul Beachnau is executive director of the Gaylord Area Convention and Tourism Bureau and the Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce. He may be reached at 732-6333.