WANTED: More Community Champions

Sometimes we don't know our own strength.

That's particularly true for those of us who belong to professional associations, sporting leagues, hobby clubs and other groups that hold regular meetings and conventions.

That's why the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau created an annual "Community Champions" award to recognize local men and women who help to persuade their professional, religious, fraternal and athletic groups and clubs to hold meetings and events in the Traverse City area. Since the program was started in 2006, the Bureau has recognized 22 Community Champions – and we know there are many, many more potential Champions out there.

Tourism is a key economic driver for the Traverse City area, employing over 11,000 local residents and injecting almost $1 billion per year into our economy. Visitors spend money in hotels, restaurants, wineries, shops and other businesses, adding to the economic vitality of the community.

Any resident who belongs to a club, association or society can contribute in a significant way to our community by inviting their group to hold a meeting or convention in Traverse City. One of the goals of the Community Champions program is to encourage people to have that "Aha!" moment – where they understand that they can be Champions, too, through the relationships they have as members of professional associations, business associations and other groups.

Just ask our most recent Community Champions. Rich Johnson of the Pugsley Correctional Center helped to bring some 400 law enforcement professionals from 32 states to Traverse City in August for the State and Local Law Enforcement Training Symposium. Dean Jurik, owner of Dancing Bear, Inc. lobbied to have the National Concrete & Masonry Association and the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute hold their 2012 meetings in Traverse City.

The site selection process for meetings and conventions is very competitive, and when we have a connection with somebody who is a member of one of these organizations – somebody who can extend a personal invitation or make an initial contact – it can greatly increase our chances of winning that business for Traverse City.

Especially when we're talking about regional and national organizations, having a local person who's a member of that organization who can make that initial introduction can make all the difference.

Honestly, it usually doesn't take that much of an effort. Sometimes it can be as simple as passing on the name of the appropriate person in your organization to someone at the Convention & Visitors Bureau, or passing our name and phone number along to them. Once that initial introduction is made, our staff will do all the heavy lifting. We'll collect the information their meeting planners need, coordinate hotel arrangements, food and beverage service, transportation and other details – even help them build attendance by showing their attendees all the things they can do in Traverse City.

In these difficult economic times, our community has been very fortunate. Not just in our natural surroundings, our climate and our place in the hearts of the traveling public, but in the many public-spirited men and women who've stepped forward to bring new meeting and convention business to Traverse City. They are true Community Champions – and you could be one, too.

If you've just experience an "Aha!" moment and would like to learn more about working with the Convention & Visitors Bureau to bring a meeting or convention to Traverse City, feel free to call me at 947-1120 or email me at brad@traversecity.com

Brad Van Dommelen is president of the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau.