Guest Column

Making a multimillion-dollar impact on the home front

July 19, 2019
| By Doug Small |
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We owe 5 million thanks to 10 members of our community this month.

Why? Because that’s the economic impact of their generous efforts to help Experience Grand Rapids attract several regional and national meetings and conventions to town in July. These 10 people — with the support of their colleagues, family members, church community or fellow hobbyists — helped bring in more than $5.7 million in estimated spending. That’s why we call these folks Hometown Champs — and they’re part of a nearly 40-year tradition called Bring it to GR.

Back in 1980, we launched this program to encourage local community members to leverage their connections with professional or special interest organizations and assist in bringing conferences and conventions to the region.

The concept is simple. Many of us attend regional or national meetings sponsored by our industry, trade associations, churches, hobby groups or other special interest organizations. Long before those meetings kick off — usually years in advance — a meeting planner or site selection committee has chosen the location. The Experience Grand Rapids sales team works day in and day out to reach those decision-makers and convince them Grand Rapids is the right choice.

But, when it comes to networking, the same principles apply on a national level that apply at a local Econ Club or Grand Rapids Chamber luncheon. An introduction from the right person can make all the difference. That’s where our Hometown Champs come in.

Members of the community who partner with Experience Grand Rapids in identifying, connecting with and helping to win meeting and convention business are recognized as Hometown Champs.

July marks the biggest month for Hometown Champ impact in 2019. The five meetings and conventions they helped secure attracted 3,025 attendees who booked 4,098 hotel room nights this month alone.

In total, 27 Hometown Champs are credited with helping us book 21 conferences, meetings and conventions in Grand Rapids in 2019. Thanks in great part to their efforts, we’ll welcome 9,145 visitors who will support local businesses and entrepreneurs with an estimated $14,406,024 in spending on lodging, food and beverages, transportation, recreation and retail.

This kind of spending keeps our local restaurants, small businesses and overall economy humming, even in July, when summer weather beckons many local residents to head to the beach or visit friends and family in far-away places.

So, who are these Hometown Champs? In July, they’re Beth, Jordoun, Alan, Mike, Dan, Kathy, Suzanne, Rick, Kristofer and Stacey.

They’re your neighbors, colleagues, fellow club members or congregants who recognize Grand Rapids would be a great place for their next convention. They’re the snowmobiling enthusiast, master gardener and rare porcelain collector who want to share their community with the people who share their passion.

In short, Hometown Champs are people like you who love our region and recognize the tremendous positive impact that thousands of visitors can bring to our local economy and quality of life.

Community pride comes in many forms and can lead to all kinds of positive outcomes. We see those outcomes all around Grand Rapids every day. It’s why we have such a vibrant community. To the Hometown Champs who helped to bring thousands of visitors and millions of dollars to our community this year, we say, “thank you.”

If you want to be part of this growing alliance of ambassadors, we stand ready to assist you, so together, we can showcase our community and the local businesses that make it Grand.

Doug Small is president and CEO of Experience Grand Rapids, Kent County and Grand Rapids’ marketing, conventions and tourism organization.

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