Michigan coastal community recognizes MSU Extension program as a catalyst for community and economic development

Four years after the City of St. Clair participated in the First Impressions Tourism (FIT) Program through MSU Extension, community leaders recognized the project as catalyst for “Freighter Walk” success.

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When I inquired with the City of St. Clair’s community leaders in Spring 2021 as to what Michigan State University Extension’s First Impressions Tourism (FIT) program did for their community after participating in 2019, I did expect to capture some impacts relevant to increased partnerships, collaboration, and community actions. However, what I did not expect was to receive an invitation to speak in Spring 2023 on behalf of the significance of the FIT program for the already four-year old effort.

MSU Extension’s First Impressions Tourism (FIT) program was acknowledged in May 2023 by the City of St. Clair for serving as the catalyst for multiple community-driven tourism initiatives to support the community’s small town tourism economy. As program lead for FIT, I had the privilege of representing our 2019 five-person FIT assessment team at a dedication ceremony for their new “Freighter Walk” that leverages their community’s waterfront access and rich shipping history, along with several other successes spawned from the assessment. As I said to the crowd gathered on this beautiful boardwalk overlooking Canada, “It is the FIT community leadership team(s) that really deserve the credit for accepting first-time visitor insights and elevating those to exemplary status being honored here today.”

City of St Clair’s Parks and Recreation Director, Trice Hawkins, highlighted the FIT program as the “inspiration” for their new tourism developments and what the 2019 effort has managed to do for their local team, which is still meeting regularly through the last four years.

Additional acknowledgements for St. Clair’s successes were made to local, county, and state organizations.

To learn more about City of St. Clair visit stclairontheriver.com.

The 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 overriding goal of the program is to support community economic development by facilitating the growth of local and regional tourism economy. More information can be found on the FIT Program website, including information on how your community can apply to be a future FIT participant.

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