Chamber Merger Positive Move……But More Discussion Needed Before Spending $36,000 On TV VIDEO!

by Free Speech on April 20, 2012

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

Lets Get Our Ducks In A Row Before Spending 36K Folks!

 

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.

 

Lyn Lorenz

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 GreenHorn April 20, 2012 at 2:38 PM

This is great news! For Discover Wisconsin! Though I am a newcomer to the Peaceful Valley (less than four generations), I will offer up my viewpoint.

The reality is that Lodi is a place you drive through, not to. Take a 20 minute walk up and down Main St. Take note of the types of businesses. Then ask yourself: “What is here that people will drive more than a half hour to buy/do here?” Not much. What is still here and is not for sale, rent or is burned out, is not really all that different than what you can find anywhere else. So what is the selling point here? Nature and scenic beauty are the most common answers that I hear. That is the image that Lodi should be promoting and marketing.

$36,000 is a pretty sizable investment for what could be a pretty small return. There are far better places to invest that money that would benefit everyone in the area. Revitalizing Main St. should be step one in that journey. Working to get a “destination” restaurant would be huge. What about an outdoor sporting goods store-kayaks, canoes, bikes, climbing gear, fishing equipment? What about a grocer that didn’t view pasta as “ethnic” food. What about a venue that would feature local artists and entertainers? Local food? What about something progressive? Different? Having something that is the same, and more of it, is not the solution to this problem. And there is a systemic problem here.

Let’s say the Discover Wisconsin thing works. People come in droves. Then what? What are they going to do once they’re here? Where will they stay? Eat? Why will they tell their friends to come here? Why would they return? Most importantly, why would they spend their money here? Being able to answer those questions is crucial to success. Filling in those blanks should precede spending $36,000 on a slick video production.

Until the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Lodi, the Town of Lodi and all the local businesses are pulling in the same direction with each business owner intensely engaged, these well-intentioned, yet poorly executed plans will undoubtedly produce more of the same. Make the bed before you rent the room.

As John Fogerty so adeptly put it: “Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again!”

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