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Pure Michigan cuts hurt real people

What’s your quality of life like without kidneys?

How long will your car run without spark plugs or a fuel pump? How much more difficult does it become to cook a holiday meal if someone steals your stove?

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Remove any singular part of a functioning system, and the whole is suddenly compromised, no longer of the greatest value — and no longer fully functioning.

Fortunately, our kidneys, spark plugs, and stoves have not been vetoed.

But Pure Michigan funding has.

While many understand the tremendous benefits of a statewide tourism destination marketing program for the overall health of the state, some are arguing that tourism isn’t important.

With tourism being one of the top revenue-generating industries for the state, it seems ludicrous that we are even locked in debate over this topic. Take any other industry (for example, health care or manufacturing), and replace any reference to “tourism” in this debate with one of these other industry names. How does that change the perspective?

We wouldn’t eliminate an entire program that brings forth positive outcomes. When will tourism as an industry be viewed with equal legitimacy? It is important to have a well-rounded, diversified economy, with multiple revenue streams and opportunities to extend tax capture for critical services and infrastructure improvements.

Any opinion that tourism isn’t worthy of a state program is short-sighted and detrimental to the future health of the economy.

The state’s Pure Michigan efforts have many benefits, one being to provide a feeder system of potential customers for all cities and towns in Michigan.

It’s Sales 101. Individual destinations can market to this prequalified audience of potential business and leisure travelers and have greater success in attracting new people to communities like Alpena.

While Alpena has its own tourism marketing budget, it is not nearly enough to make up for any losses that will materialize with the destruction of Pure Michigan funding. Tourism is one of the most lucrative segments of the economy, providing infusions of new money into a community, tax revenue, and jobs. It improves the amenities and infrastructure in a community for residents to enjoy.

How about we shift the angle and ask what won’t be here if tourism to Michigan dries up due to lack of promotional funding.

For Eric Peterson, owner and chef of The Fresh Palate Gourmet and Nucleus Lounge, the 10-year-old business would fold within a year without tourism.

He employs 42 people in the summer months and 25 in the off-season. His biggest months are June to September, in which he garners half of his revenue for the year.

Eric says he can always tell when the tourism season revs up, because his customer base explodes. If he had to close, 90 to 100 lives would be impacted, including children and spouses of employees who depend on the income. To expand on the hypothetical, all the vendors Eric works with for food and supply orders would also lose, because, if the restaurant isn’t operating, it isn’t ordering.

Griffin and Andrea James are expecting their second child as they head into the New Year. Proprietors of The Local Basket Case, a gift shop specializing in Michigan-made items, Griffin said a consistent 40% of their revenue is from people who do not live in the local area (tourists/visitors). Besides staff, family, and supply vendors, there are a number of things The Basket Case supports throughout the year that help nonprofits in the community. He said they wouldn’t be able to hire more than one person, wouldn’t be able to support local vendors or artists, and wouldn’t be able to contribute to the betterment of the community as a whole without tourists.

Kristine Barnes and her family have operated the 40 Winks Motel in Alpena for more than 35 years. She has seen a lot over the years, including a variety of economic recessions, as well as what has and hasn’t worked in tourism marketing.

Kris said nothing has provided Michigan with better results than the Pure Michigan campaign.

She attributes the campaign with bringing more attention to Michigan as a destination, and that gives Alpena a larger customer base to pull from. She said that, when the Pure Michigan campaign started rolling and the Alpena Area Convention and Visitors Bureau updated their marketing strategy, things really started taking off in Alpena.

Kris agrees that, without both of those efforts running smoothly, she wouldn’t have the customer base to stay open.

Additionally, when efforts were made to increase the promotion of Michigan and Alpena as a travel destination, business grew and she was able to put money into maintaining and expanding the business, two things she wasn’t able to do previously, during the times she referred to as “scrape by and pray.”

If Pure Michigan funding is not reinstated, we will see the devastation of that decision in a few years and it will not be good.

I don’t know anyone who would want that outcome on their conscience.

Pure Michigan funding isn’t a line item in a budget printed on a piece of paper. Pure Michigan is who we are. It has a face. That face is ours.