Economic development leaders hold Q&A during GMA breakfast

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau President Mary Beth Stutzman, left, Target Alpena Economic Development Director Jim Klarich, Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Anne Gentry and Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Jackie Krawczak took part in a question and answer session during the Good Morning Alpena Breakfast Friday.

ALPENA –Economic development and tourism don’t just happen on their own. It takes hard work, extensive planning and pinpoint execution of the plans for communities to experience increases in each.

During the Good Morning Alpena Breakfast at Art in the Loft, executives from the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, Alpena Downtown Development Authority, Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau and Target Alpena explained what each entity does to bolster development and tourism in the area, as well as how they work with each another to make sure goals are achieved.

Chamber President/CEO Jackie Krawczak, DDA Executive Director Anne Gentry, Target Economic Development Director Jim Klarich and CVB President Mary Beth Stutzman were on the panel that answered questions.

The panel was asked what type of challenges each organization has faced and faces moving forward. Each one said time demands and budget limitations impact progress, but explained how they work to overcome them. All agreed that hurdles, or obstacles as minor inconveniences, when cleared can lead to success.

“I don’t think of things as challenges, but fun new opportunities,” Krawczak said. “They can be frustrating, but I see them as opportunities.”

All four organizations work closely with each another and partner together on projects in Alpena. Because some of the services and duties are similar, there is always a threat of overlap when dealing with people or businesses.

“We all check our egos at the door,” Klarich said. “We may not agree on everything, but at the end of the day what rises to the top has created a better Alpena, which is all of our goals.”

Krawczak, Stutzman, Gentry and Klarich also provided updates on what projects and initiatives will be taking place in 2018.

Gentry said adding new and better signage in the downtown is one goal, as is raising funds for new Christmas decorations. She said working with Target and the chamber to add development on Thunder Bay River is another top priority and Krawczak said continuing to work with schools to help create a sustainable workforce is one goal and another is to sort through events that work for chamber members. She said ones that aren’t very beneficial could be ended, but new ones with potential to boost business could be added.

Stutzman said the CVB is continuing to promote and market Alpena as a destination will continue, but while doing so, making sure too much growth, too fast, doesn’t change the aesthetic and charm of it.

“Our focus is on sustainable growth and sustainable development,” she said. “We need to be sure we are growing at a rate that Alpena can absorb and in a direction that makes sense for us. If we just grow for the sake of bringing more people at all cost, then we won’t enjoy living here. We need to grow in a responsible manner.”

Klarich said Target, which is the economic development branch of the chamber, will continue to work with developers and market locations ready for development. He said that is especially important on the river.

“We want to see more mixed use development on the river,” Klarich said. “That is really where the future of Alpena is. We need to do it in a way though that adds to the charm that we already have.

The sponsors for the event were Alpena County Library and Art in the Loft.

The next Good Morning Alpena Breakfast will be Jan. 19 and the topic will be Alpena’s Got Talent. It will be held at Alpena Community College in the student commons area.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.