It was recently reported that the Lodi Chamber of Commerce was merging with the Lake Wisconsin Chamber to become the Lodi/Lake Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, a move that should really benefit these two groups that hold similar goals. Now there is a movement afoot by this newly blended body to spend 36 thousand dollars ($36,000.00) to promote the Lodi/Lake Wisconsin area by paying the television program Discover Wisconsin to produce a half hour program to be played 3 times on tv and be available on their website, with hopes that visitors will see it and flock to this area.
My first reaction was, wow, that’s a lot of money to pay for perhaps not a lot of exposure. I’ve watched Discover Wisconsin over the years, it’s a good program, but I watch it when nothing else is on, maybe twice a year. What about you?
There are sweet things about this area, if not compelling. Being a resident of the town of Dekorra for 30 years I’ve always enjoyed the quiet nature of the lake and hometown goodness of Lodi. Fishing, hiking, biking, and great food, combine with annual events like the Lodi Ag Fair and Susie Days to make a quaint statement. But what of those year round visitors looking for activities? The Lodi farmers’ market is a constant from the end of April to the end of October, but what else?
When I worked with the Lodi Chamber several years back we attended meetings by the state about the Main Street Program, a program organized to assist small towns rebuild their infrastructure and buildings with renewal and revival as some of their goals. They emphasized that in order for visitors to want to visit, there must first be things to come to and do. Lodi businesses at the time were not interested in investing in the Main Street program and a paid coordinator that could have motivated participants. If you are unfamiliar with the program, just look to our north at what the city of Portage has accomplished.
Investment should be the key, whether it be economic or by sweat equity. I remember going to all the businesses on south Main Street and asking them to plant flowers around their main street trees or at least keep them mulched, weeded and tidy. Some did, some didn’t. We’ve had to round up volunteers in the recent past to keep some of the lovely parks picked up, should that be made a priority? I asked the city to pull weeds around the rusty green light posts that look like they are discards from The War of the Worlds movie, but the city said they didn’t pull, they sprayed, and business owners didn’t like weed spray tracked inside their shops. Can’t say I blame them for that sentiment. I was also told at that time that those rusty posts were the kind that could be changed out for the quaint old-fashioned light posts that you can see in our neighboring communities of Sauk City, Poynette, and now Merrimac. To me, that kind of charming investment creates an atmosphere conducive to spending time downtown any time of day or night.
And what of the the lake area? I’ve been told time and again that visitors are confused as to where to find food, fishing and fun. Good signage is a big deal. There are old and ugly signs out there that simply seem to speak (badly) for the area when a little paint and creativity could make a huge difference. What about an investment in a new sign contest from Whalen’s grade to the Sauk Dam and the Merrimac Ferry to Dane? What about promoting this beautiful area as a Green tourist destination, promoted by the state tourism department? You can’t get much greener than hiking, biking and camping!
These thoughts are not at all intended to denounce any group, business, individual, or idea. With an uncertain economy, we all acknowledge the challenges that must be met in order to be successful, and frankly that success is defined differently. But I think it is important for the members of the newly combined chambers to discuss all options of investment for this area, make the best use of their investment dollars and hours, and look at the big picture and future of this area. What do you want to achieve and how do you plan to go about it? Perhaps a member questionnaire would give the chamber board more guidance on member expectations to grow not only the business success but also the legend and reputation of the Lodi and Lake Wisconsin area for all visitors and residents to enjoy for decades to come.