City of Allegan strives to be more welcoming after capturing first-time visitor perspectives

The First Impressions Tourism assessment supports community economic development by facilitating growth of local and regional tourism economies.

For decorative purposes.

The City of Allegan, as with nearly all communities that complete Michigan State University Extension’s First Impressions Tourism (FIT) assessment program, acted almost immediately on the results and feedback from their Fall 2022 community forum. As part of the FIT program process, MSU Extension educators have a follow up conversation with all communities to assess impacts and actions approximately one year from the date of the community forum.

As the FIT program lead, I followed up in the fall of 2023 with Joel Dye, City Manager for the City of Allegan, to capture impacts and actions one year after receiving their results. Results of our exchange are highlighted.

What has changed in your community as a result of participating in FIT?

Joe Dye stated, “Participating in the FIT program was a definite plus for us as a community – especially listing the opportunities for our city.”

City Manager Dye specifically highlighted:

(Italics are direct quotes)

This year:

  • We accelerated our Downtown Streetscape Project to complete the project in one construction season instead of the originally planned two construction seasons
  • We have hired a new director with the Chamber of Commerce
  • Our local public schools began construction on a new elementary school complex and several updates to their other facilities
  • We have completed a wayfinding signage analysis and developed a schematic plan and concept design for new signage
  • Our county secured a significant grant to run high-speed fiber through our downtown area
  • And we are redoing our website to include a community calendar

What improvements have or will be made to the built environment, recreation, beautification, and/or digital presence?

Through these projects we were able to:

  • Increase beautification
  • Plan for better signage
  • Create a community calendar
  • Increase downtown recycling
  • Discuss the idea of increasing art in our community with our local Arts Council, etc.  

Joel went on to say the FIT community forum held in fall 2022 “allowed the community to hear and be engaged in how our city needs to position itself as a welcoming community. This was a very beneficial project for the City of Allegan and the larger community of Allegan.”

First Impressions Tourism (FIT) assessment program is a comprehensive community assessment conducted by unannounced visitors in a host community positioned to lead development based on their unique results. The overarching goal of the program is to support community economic development by facilitating the growth of local and regional tourism economies. More information can be found on the FIT Program website, including information on how your community can apply to become a future FIT participant.

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