How to become a "FIT" community in 2018

Step by step process to securing your place with MSU Extensions new community-assessment program.

Michigan State University Extension tourism educators have rolled out a community-assessment program titled “First Impressions: Assessing Your Community for Tourism (FIT)”. FIT is a comprehensive community assessment conducted by unannounced visitors in a host community. FIT involves developing community leadership, assessing the host community, sharing the results in a community forum and providing suggestions to drive community action. Overall, FIT helps communities learn about their strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of first-time visitors.

Becoming a FIT community is straightforward. There are specific steps to securing your community’s place for 2018 and beyond.

In order to become a FIT community, please follow each of these steps:

  1. Form a community leadership team (CLT) made up of local stakeholders and apply for FIT by downloading and filling out the application as a group. Please review the application carefully and fill it out according to each question. Applications are available at Michigan State University Extension website for FIT.
  2. MSU Extension tourism educators will conduct a FIT orientation and outline next steps with the CLT once applications are reviewed and accepted. An initial phone call will serve as the starting point of the FIT program for each community that applies successfully.
  3. A team of FIT visitors will then assess the host community unannounced during specific pre-determined time period.
  4. The CLT organizes a community forum where MSU Extension educator/FIT assessor will share the assessment results and suggestions with the CLT and the host community.
  5. An MSU Extension educator or FIT leader will provide a written report of results and suggestions to the CLT.
  6. The CLT takes the lead in driving action within the host community based on FIT results they decide to move forward with.
  7. MSU Extension conducts a follow-up visit at a later date and offers further assistance.

These are the general steps taken when conducting a FIT program in Michigan. The typical timeline for FIT is between four to six months, but can take longer due to seasonal changes, capacity, and for host communities to secure proper funding.

The results of FIT in a community can spawn local leadership, strengthen community vitality, and form the basis for future development and investment.

FIT gained statewide attention in 2016 after four communities in Michigan’s thumb region were selected for the FIT program. Interested readers can learn more about FIT in 2017 here. Anyone interested in attending a FIT community report forum is welcome to attend those scheduled for late 2017. Click here for more information on how to attend a FIT community report forum. You can also contact Andy Northrop, MSU Extension regional educator in tourism and community economic development. Applications are being accepted on a rolling year-long basis.

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