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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Considers Creating Tourism, Development Posts

Issue Date: February 13, 2020

As part of a long agenda for its 9 a.m. meeting on Thursday, Feb. 13, Marinette County Board's Administrative Committee will consider adding three positions to the county's list of employees - one as a program assistant in the Facilities and Parks Department to promote use of county-owned attractions, mainly parks, campgrounds and other tourist attractions, and two to become a semi-independent Development/Tourism Division in the Administrative Department under the direction of County Administrator John LeFebvre. If approved by the Administrative Committee all three new positions will be on the agenda for County Board approval at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 25.

Motions recommending approval of the two Development/Tourism Division positions, one as director and the other as program assistant, were unanimously approved by the Development Committee on Tuesday, Feb.11 and passed along for Administrative Committee action on Thursday.

In split votes at its January meeting, County Board had approved motions instructing the Development Committee to create an Internal Community Development position and an internal Tourism Director position, and instructing LeFebvre to prepare budgets and job descriptions for the two departments.

However, at the Development Committee meeting he proposed instead having the combined Community Development/Tourism Director position with an administrative assistant. Rather than being an independent department they would be a division of the Administrative Depatment, and under his supervision. He said this proposal was worked out in conversations with some of the supervisors who had supported the two motions at County Board, including Board Vice Chair Bob Holley and Supervisor Bonnie Popp, who is a professional tourism marketing specialist and has a background in community development. County Board Chair Mark Anderson was present for the meeting and appeared happy with the outcome but did not comment.

The action came as part of a long, hard meeting for the committee, and very little discussion preceded the approving votes to forward the approval recommendation to the Administrative Committee.

Committee members did not mention an address made during time for public comment strongly urging the Committee and the County Board to follow the recommendations of a $12,000 study they had commissioned from Bay Lakes Regional Planning Commission which twice recommended that the county contract with inVenture North for the economic development and tourism promotion work that hey seek.

The speaker was Lisa Miller, a Marinette resident who,with husband, Jeff Miller, owns the Miller Action Office Supply business in Menominee. She noted that because of the nature of their business they have contact with many of the business people in the area.

"In the fall, you heard the results from Kristen Fish-Peterson from the Bay Lakes Regional Planning and Redevelopment Resources and yet you continue to struggle with how to best move forward in managing economic development and tourism for Marinette County," she said.

She reminded them that in early October she had submitted a letter to the County Board on this subject, and commented, "Apparently there is a need to emphasize the importance of those points again.

She said due to their business she and their husband know many people in Marinette County and serve hundreds of businesses and industries in the area.

She grew up in a home where dinner discussions included where and how her father was "building up'" another city in Wisconsin.

"My dad, William Morris, is a nationally recognized and certificated city and urban planner and economic developer," she told the committee. "You name a town or city in Wisconsin and he's been there. If you name an industrial plant, he is likely behind bringing that corporation to the area. As a lay person, I know what's involved in creating a effective tourism and economic development plan," she went on, and added, "I can tell you we already have a a spectacular plan in inVenture North."

"I can somewhat understand your concerns about using an outside source and not having control over "employees,' " she said, but added, "" to do so really does not make any sense. Honestly, anyone you hire will spend their time chasing after InVenture North and what the are already accomplishing. InVenture North already has skin in the game. They know how to increase tourism and develop communities. They are already off and running.

"You need someone who understands what our communities offer and needs to attract new residents. Someone who has developed strong relationships and connections to local businesses and industries to hear their voice and assist them with expansion and retention. A source who engages in our local university and technical college to align workforce training with business needs. You need a team who knows our area and is qualified and committed to marketing the quality of life our area offers. This is InVenture North!," she continued.

"InVenture North is the perfect entity and solution to handle these goals. Rob Pontius oversees a highly qualified and motivated staff. They have the necessary skill set and, perhaps even more importantly, the relationships and support of the local business sector Roberta Davis and Ashley, their operations manager, pair up to make a very gifted team. Roberta has valuable people-skills and easily builds strong relationships because she excels in listening, hearing the voice of businesses, and is able to strategize to find resources and solutions. She is a team player and collaborator who can align multiple goals to create spectacular results. She is a visionary whose humility positions her well in being able to develop and market our communities with the current trends.

"Please do not waste our tax dollars by hiring people to try to do a job that is already being done exceptionally well. Keep your discussion short and choose to invest in InVenture North," she concluded.


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