Valley gets smaller piece of tourism economic pie than other areas
Stillwater and the St. Croix Valley have a weak brand presence affecting its share of the tourism economic pie, according to survey results presented last week to a new downtown revitalization committee.
Dr. Karen Gulliver, MBA chairwoman of Argosy University, presented the Greater Stillwater Area (GSA) tourism and branding study results to the Community Symposium’s newly formed Downtown Stillwater Revitalization Committee’s first group session. The committee is made up of 36 downtown business and property owners.
“The study revealed that Stillwater, and in fact, the greater area, has a brand presence, but it is not strong. This is called weak brand equity. What this translates to is that other regions, with more brand presence but less to offer visitors, may have a bigger share of the tourism economic pie,” Gulliver said.
Stillwater’s downtown committee is one of several economic committees being formed as a result of lat year’s Community Symposium’s town hall sessions. Downtown revitalization is one of six economic opportunities identified by the symposiums. Committees will be formed to study the other opportunities including; GSA connectivity and communication; arts and culture; area trolley circular; accessibility and, community amenities.
“This is a great opportunity for downtown to shape it’s future rather than having the future shape it,” said symposium panel member Jim Bradshaw.
“I’m excited about all this. Knowing how these projects and new visitors will impact downtown is one thing. But, working with other downtown businesses, city officials and the county to make it all come together is great,” added Ernie Shores, owner of A’salonna.
The downtown committee will identify opportunities to start the process of preparing downtown for the estimated 75,000 to 100,000 new visitors coming to the area with soon-to-be completed Browns Creek Trail and the Lift Bridge renovation.
“The downtown Stillwater business district has a golden opportunity to get ready for what could amount to a grand opening of downtown Stillwater once these exciting projects come online. We’ve got two years to plan and reinvest in our businesses and properties in preparation of the arrival of our new guests. You wouldn’t start painting the dining room just as your dinner guests start arriving would you?” said Todd Streeter, executive director of the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce.
Among the study’s findings was that activities are the top reason people choose a destination and the number one reason people return is because of their experience. Gulliver said a region’s brand is made up of everything that people experience when they visit.
“The brand that the GSA crafts and projects must be consistent with the experience people have when they visit the area. When they don’t match, you have a major brand disconnect and that can lead to a troubled downtown, which is the center of economic interaction. When they are spot on, you have a thriving economic center that benefits area residents as much as out of town visitors,” Gulliver said.
“In the big picture, a strong vibrant downtown is not just the epicenter of economic interaction, it’s the flagship of a region’s quality of life. A thriving downtown, along with the natural amenities we have here in the St. Croix Valley, attracts not just visitors, it brings in residents and companies that in turn keeps our residential and commercial property values up and owner-occupied,” Streeter said.
The Community Symposium is preparing to form other economic concept committees. If you are interested in learning more about these committees or want to participate on one, please visit www.communitysymposium.com for more information and sign-up form, or contact the chamber at 651-439-4001.
Photos courtesy of The Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce
Dr. Karen Gulliver of Argosy University presents the findings of a tourism and branding study with Downtown Stillwater Revitalization Committee members during a meeting last week.
Committee members discuss the study’s findings and their impact on addressing the future needs of downtown.