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Loving our busy, busy town

Northern Strike, the Michigan Brown Trout Festival, a city managers’ conference, a softball tournament, university students from two different schools, vacationers, business travelers, multiple family reunions, the Alpena High School class of 1999 reunion, and so many others have been in our community the last several weeks, for so many reasons.

Have you noticed?

Left turns are a little more difficult. You might have had to wait at a traffic light longer than usual. Restaurants and bars are busy. Hotels are booked. People are everywhere. I don’t know about you, but I love it.

I like interacting with new people. I enjoy hearing their comments about the community. I like seeing the sidewalks busy with pedestrians. Sometimes, I joke that I don’t see people, but I see dollar signs walking around, driving cars, hanging out at our public places, enjoying our stores, restaurants, and experiences. Although it is a joke, there is great financial value to our community by welcoming those guests.

For some people, having guests in town is annoying. It annoys me to hear people say that.

The reality is, those guests are necessary for us to have a vibrant, healthy community. It is important for the most obvious reason — the increase in outside revenue flowing into the community. We need those outside dollars for our businesses. We cannot just circulate money internally and expect the community to flourish. Outside dollars are important to keeping people employed, keeping businesses open, and allowing added investment into our businesses.

Those guests add value in other ways, too. They help tell our story. Whatever experience they have will be the story they tell. Your interaction with a guest in our community is important to assuring their experience is a positive one, and that the story they go back home to tell others is a positive story.

Guests in our community also add value by adding diversity. Everyone comes from a different background, with different experiences. They bring those experiences to our community and can have a positive impact on us by offering their ideas and suggestions based on other things they have seen and done. We should welcome their input and diverse ideas, thoughts, and lifestyles.

Those guests can also be a valuable reminder to us of what an incredible community we have. We have a regular stream of guests visiting our office at the Chamber. I also attend several events where there are guests.

In the last several weeks, I have heard mostly positive comments about this community.

In general, they think the community is beautiful and clean, the people are friendly, there is a lot to do, they like the water, they like the variety of activities available, and they are usually surprised at the size of the community if they haven’t been here before or in a very long time.

I love hearing those things and wish everyone could hear their input, because it is an incredible reminder of the value of our community. It is also a reminder not to take for granted the things that others appreciate so much about us.

I read the results of a survey that was online in The Alpena News recently. The question asked, “What do you think of the Northern Strike military exercises?” I have no idea how many people responded. I do not know how many people voted more than one time. I don’t know the demographics of those who took the poll or any details about where they live. What I do know is that the results indicated 72% of respondents answered, “It’s a nuisance,” while 23% chose, “It’s awesome,” and 5% chose, “Northern what?”

To me, those results are disappointing. I don’t know what about the event would be a nuisance. The noise? The extra people in town? Something else? Whatever it may be, I’d encourage everyone to look at that event, and all the other reasons for the influx of guests to our community, as a positive thing because of the many ways in which those guests add value to the community.

My hope with that poll is that 25 people responded, and one person simply voted 18 times for the nuisance answer. It’s quite possible.

Having guests in our community is a good thing, with the benefits greatly outweighing any negatives, and I hope we can all come to see it that way, appreciating the value added to our community with every new face that ventures in.

Jackie Krawczak is president/CEO of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs biweekly on Thursdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.