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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Students Help Make Community Better

Here is an article from the Tribune by Karrie Koceba about how MSU Business Students are studying Port Austin to help it improve.  Rogers City would love to host these students next year to hear their suggestions regarding making Rogers City a better community.

MSU business students study ways to make Port Austin a special place

Published: Friday, April 27, 2012 7:33 AM EDT
By Karrie Koceba
For the Tribune

PORT AUSTIN — Four teams of Michigan State University students promoted a “third place” concept to community members at the Port Austin Visitor’s Center.

The students from a commercial recreation and tourism business class along with MSU Professor Dan McCole, an expert in Michigan tourism, were in town last week at the request of Bad Axe attorney and Port Austin Kayak owner Chris Boyle.
Boyle, who is scheduled to finalize his purchase of the marina in Port Austin later this month, said he enlisted the help of McCole and his students after reading about author Ray Oldenburg’s concept of the “third place.” 
According to Oldenburg, the “third place” is an informal gathering place beyond home and work where people can relax, share ideas and support each other.

Presentation ideas featured expanding the marina business to include a future roof-top café or lounge, an indoor museum featuring local artists, and retail areas for selling Michigan-made items, as well as housing the kayak business that Boyle already owns.

Boyle and his wife worked together to define the core values that would guide their vision of providing the community with a “third place” and came up with the acronym C.R.E.A.T.E., which stands for community, recreation, environment, arts, tourism and entertainment.

“We started the kayak business six years ago on a whim,” Boyle said. “Since then, I’ve attended every tourism related meeting about the Thumb, and other places, that I could attend.”

Boyle said he was introduced to McCole when he started attending Michigan Sea Grant meetings a little more than two years ago.

The Michigan Sea Grant, a collaborative program with the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, is part of a federally funded national college program that promotes better understanding, conservation and use of Michigan’s coastal resources.

One of the projects funded by the Michigan Sea Grant is the Southern Lake Huron Assessment.

According to the Michigan Sea Grant website, the purpose of this assessment is to determine current conditions and identify possible opportunities for coastal communities in the Thumb. Carl Osentoski, executive director of the Huron County Economic Development Corp., who has also been working with the Michigan Sea Grant program, said he enjoyed the fresh perspective the students provided.

“A lot of times, we do not see our own benefits, and it is very helpful to see the area through fresh eyes,” said Osentoski. “We have such beautiful geography here in the Thumb.”

Osentoski explained that part of the function of the EDC is to match businesses with the appropriate resources.

“This was a focused effort that displayed the resources available for a specific business,” Osentoski said. “This event is an example of how small businesses can receive very valuable information by enlisting the help and resources of universities and colleges.”

McCole concluded the event by sharing his beliefs that tourism in Michigan is improving and so is Michigan’s economy.

“The economy is getting better, so there are a number of people who are now in a better financial position to travel,” McCole said. “People are also very protective of their vacations, so they make financial changes which will allow them to overcome travel barriers, like higher gas prices.”

McCole also spoke about the success of the Pure Michigan Campaign, which is in its third year.

“The Pure Michigan Campaign is drawing more visitors from out of state, a trend which I expect to continue this year,” he said. “The Thumb is unique because of its geography, which is enticing to those who are looking for an interesting or new place to visit.”

Boyle said he is looking forward to implementing some of the ideas presented by the students.

“I love the idea of a roof-top restaurant or bar that serves Michigan micro brews and wines,” Boyle said. “I like the idea of making the property comfortable for anyone to come down and relax and enjoy.”

Maybe this could help improve tourism and the economy in Rogers City.

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