Port Collaborative Stops by St. Joseph for Port, Harbor Statistics

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Posted May 15, 2018

Millicent Huminsky has a 21-page packet to fill out and couldn’t be happier to do so.

The Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council executive director’s enthusiasm for the paperwork stems from the region’s ultimate attraction: water.

The Michigan Port Collaborative is launching its first “full-spectrum” economic impact study of ports in Michigan. The study’s main purpose is to determine how much green is brought to blue communities.

The statewide organization began its nine-day tour of port and harbor communities Thursday with Huminsky in St. Joseph.

“It’s intended to show the economic impact of recreational boating tourism,” Huminsky said. “They hope to prove that there is a significant economic impact in Michigan when it comes to our ports.”

MPC officials reached out to the Huminsky and the Tourist Council three months ago.

Through a grant provided by the Michigan Waterways Commission, the MPC hired Vincent Magnini, executive director of the Institute for Service Research in Virginia Beach, to conduct the study.

Bill Boik, a consultant who used to work for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, is providing assistance on the project.

Huminsky spent a few hours talking about what was needed for the study and touring the area with MPC officials.

After eating at Plank’s Tavern at The Inn at Harbor Shores – a location Huminsky chose to give them a view of the waterways – Huminsky took them to St. Joseph’s commercial ports, Harbor Shores development district, the historic lighthouse near Silver Beach and some of the homes near the Benton Harbor Arts District.

“Each port is unique. We’re the only community that has all the things they’re looking at,” Huminsky said. “Bill, who worked for the DNR, said we were at the top of their list. He said, ‘You’re the gold.’ Because of our volume of recreation, the commercial port, and the Harbor Shores development, we were their first stop.”

Huminsky and her staff have until June 15 to complete the 21-page packet, which will include the area’s top five economic generators.

Felicia Fairchild, MPC board chairwoman, said the organization intends to use the study’s results to educate legislators and state officials regarding the economic value of port communities.

“We have been involved in representing the ports of Michigan for over a decade on issues that are critical to the economic success of all port communities,” Fairchild said.

When lake levels dropped drastically in 2009, Fairchild said there was a renewed concern among state and federal officials regarding the economic viability of Michigan ports. She said the dredging and infrastructure challenges caused by low water levels created a trend in thinking that harbors are an economic liability.

“We want to change that thinking,” Fairchild said. “Michigan Harbors are the front doors to our communities.”

Several economic impact studies already exist. However, Fairchild said tourism dollars and other factors that add economic value to individual ports have not been included in these studies.

By adding in these factors, Fairchild said they hope the study verifies that the economic value of Michigan ports is greater than previously thought.

The tour, which included Saugatuck and Douglas on Thursday, continues in Grand Haven and South Haven today. The final leg of the tour ends in Detroit on May 18.

The results are expected to be released in December, Huminsky said. Each municipality that participates in the study will get a copy.

“The unique thing is we hope to take this information and share it with people who want to apply for grant funding,” Huminsky said.

Source: The Herald-Palladium