Contact: Vickie Ledsworth, President
Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce
PH: 810. 985.7101
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 1, 2012
Chamber signs resolution transferring $300,000 to City of Port Huron to establish a regional welcome center
In 2010, the Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce was notified by a member of Port Huron City Council that the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) had included a $300,000 item in its Blue Water Bridge Mitigation Agreement to be used by the Chamber of Commerce to “fund an addition to the Chamber’s office for the purposes of housing a local visitor center…to disseminate local tourist information and promote tourism and economic development opportunities which exist in the Port Huron community”.
The concept of leasing space from a newly constructed MDOT Welcome Center was initiated in 2006, when the chamber began looking for a more visible, accessible and centralized location. However, with the lengthy process time of the project, no confirmation on the location of the MDOT Welcome Center facility, and no further communication received from MDOT, the Chamber moved ahead to a newly remodeled location in the central business district in downtown Port Huron.
In the intervening years since the Agreement was issued, the specific use of these funds became confusing, primarily because of the emergence of the Blue Water Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s “Discover the Blue” program that marketed the entire Blue Water area to visitors and tourists, as well as the difficulty of adding to the new Chamber office in the downtown area.
Many discussions have been held concerning the role of the City, the Chamber, the CVB and others in jointly promoting the area and the role of a visitor center for this purpose. We all concluded that a facility that serves the entire Blue Water area would be the most effective and efficient use of these funds.
Concern quickly arose regarding MDOT’s decision to delay the development of the MDOT International Visitors Center on westbound I-94, which would result in the only visitor center for the area being located at the Capac Rest Area – 25 miles west of the city. That was not an acceptable alternative to community leaders.
The City focused on the use of a triangular parcel located at the east terminus of the present Pine Grove exit from eastbound I-94 and owned by MDOT as the ideal site for a Welcome/Visitor Center. The City will purchase the current office building occupied by the CVB and located on the Thomas Edison Inn site and move the building to the triangle and utilize it as a Welcome Center and office for the CVB until such time as the new CVB office is readied at the new Blue Water Convention Center. When the CVB moves to the new Convention Center, they will establish a satellite office at this location and provide the staffing necessary to keep the Center operational. At the end of the lease period, the City will either move the building to another location or sell it to a third party.
Chamber president, Vickie Ledsworth confirmed, “The Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution on July 16th agreeing to re-direct the $300,000 mitigation payment to the City of Port Huron for this purpose. The Chamber recognized the need for a regional visitor center in a highly visible area near the interstate and border crossing to distribute tourism and community information, and has redirected the funds to the appropriate organizations to carry out the intent in the mitigation Agreement.”
The Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce promotes Blue Water area businesses by providing business advocacy, education and assistance through networking and referrals, and has supported commerce and economic development in the region since 1917.