Lake County Commissioner Dan Sloan was all over Northern Michigan media last week to talk about a $45,000 federal grant the county landed, with the assistance of MAC.
In a Friday report from Channel 9&10 News, Sloan said, “We have over 300 miles of ORV trails in the county. If we can get that out, we know we are going to draw a lot of tourists. That’s going to protect our existing jobs and lead to more employment to the county.”
Sloan also was interviewed by the Lake County Star (see below) about the grant, which the county won through a competitive process with the aid of MAC’s grant service assistant, Gabriel Zawadzki.
By Brendan Losinski
LAKE COUNTY — A $45,000 grant was awarded to Lake County from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development division. The grant will be used to promote the tourism industry in order to increase jobs and grow local businesses. While dozens of counties applied for this grant, only a handful, including Lake County, were chosen.
With the awarding of the grant, a new committee, headed by county commissioner Dan Sloan, has been formed to oversee the distribution of the funds and organize a marketing and advertising campaign for the county. It will be comprised of several local business owners and members of business promoting county groups.
The grant money will be focused on re-branding Lake County as the premiere off-road vehicle destination in the Midwest. This will be done through targeted online advertising, using online analytics and focused ads that will specifically be aimed at ORV enthusiasts in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Ontario, and, of course, Michigan. This marketing campaign is planned to last a year and a half before further steps are to be implemented.
“If this is successful,” explained third district county commissioner, and committee overseer Dan Sloan, “after the first year and a half we can move to a full year, four season promotion of Lake County’s tourist industry. This means moving beyond ORV promotion, and advertising fishing, cross country skiing, Blessing of the Bikes, everything.”
The grant will also go towards designing and implementing a new phone app that will aid tourists and ORV enthusiasts. The app will map all of the county’s trails, provide GPS coordinates, and highlight restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, and other points of interest within the county.
“I’ve been a business owner here since 1980, and it’s pretty evident that tourism is really important to the local economy,” said committee member Jim Faiella. “We’ve got a great resource here with our trails… Any money we spend on advertising the county will be money well-spent.”
Sloan notes that the commission has contracted with the Michigan Association of Counties to help administer the grant, citing concerns about distribution after a low-income resident grant from 2013 was inadvertently mishandled and resulted in complications for the county. He states that every precaution is being taken to ensure that this grant is dealt with appropriately.
The county has over 800 miles of trails, 300 of which are designated for ORV use. The marketing campaign is slated to begin in early 2015, the planning of which has already begun.