In an effort to increase the visibility of Alpena's harbors to both legislators and visitors, the city is helping get the Michigan Port Collaborative off the ground.
Don Gilmet, the city's building official and harbor master, is a member of the collaborative's steering committee, which is putting together the group's bylaws and identifying each port community's assets.
"It's to get a group together to increase lobbying strength with the federal government and for the State of Michigan and it's also to help identify the needs of Michigan's port communities," Gilmet said.
The collaborative was begun by the DNR, and the steering committee had an important meeting in October to get the organization closer to launching, he said. Over 90 coastal communities could be included in the collaborative.
When the group is organized, which he said could be in May, there will be opportunities for harbors in the region to work together on marketing campaigns. As an example, Gilmet said there could be a package made available for a "marina crawl," allowing boaters to visit various marinas and the communities they serve in a set time frame.
Most of the funding for those types of projects likely would come from within those communities, but Gilmet said the money spent would go further than it has in the past.
"Eventually it's going to be communities paying for stuff, it's just the idea that pooling (funding), you're going to get more bang for your dollar," he said.
In December, Alpena Municipal Council unanimously supported joining the collaborative.
Gilmet said the collaborative is even more important during the economic recession, because it promotes something the economy can't touch.
"It's based on the premise that obviously a lot of people are leaving Michigan right now because of the economy and jobs, but for all the auto plants that we lose - steel plants and all that - the one thing that isn't going away is the Great Lakes," he said.
Sean Harkins can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5688.