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SPRING, 2009 vol. 1, no. 3

The Harbor Country® Chamber of Commerce Newsletter

Now more than ever… Chamber Bulletin Board After-Hours MIxers The chamber’s After-Hours Mixers with a Twist are a popular way to socialize and network with other chamber members. Special thanks to all of the businesses that hosted such wonderful events over the past five months. After-Hours Mixers with a Twist begin at 5:30 pm. Here is what is coming up: Thursday, May 7 hosted by New Buffalo Inn & Spa Thursday, June 4 hosted by Tower Hill Camp & Retreat Center in Sawyer Watch your email Update for more detail and information on other chamber events.

 By Greg Bubb Harbor Country Chamber President


s we approach the beginning of the “tourism season” here in Harbor Country, the economy is on my mind just as I am certain it is on the minds of the membership. And as we all try and move our local economy from one of a seasonal nature to one of a more annual nature (did you see the HCCVB/Pure Michigan winter ad campaign?), the current state of the country cannot be overlooked. How will the current financial crisis impact the season many of our businesses rely on and what can the chamber do to help minimize any negative impact? For me, the answer is simple and is the most basic reason the chamber exists…help one another. The sense of community that Harbor Country embodies is the reason many of our tourism guests elect to “convert” and become members of the community when they decide to buy a second home. And now more than ever, that spirit of helping your neighbor is needed not only by the person living next door, but also by the business down the street. It’s the reason that our membership bands together and puts forth its collective effort to better Harbor Country rather than having

each business try and go it alone. There is strength in numbers. We’ve realized that when it comes to marketing the area and now is the time to realize that we all benefit by doing business locally with other chamber members. Encouraging business to do business locally is the most basic member to member service that the chamber of commerce can provide and promote. By doing business locally we keep local dollars flowing through our local economy. The dollars you spend in a locally owned business have three times the impact on the community as those spent at national chains. When you shop locally, you simultaneously create jobs and help to allow for increased wages. This in turn contributes to Harbor Country’s well-being as locally owned businesses help to build a stronger community by contributing to local causes. Local ownership also means that important decisions are made by local people who live in the community and who will feel the impact of those decisions. And local owners tend to have more of themselves and their savings invested in their business creating a natural interest in the long-term health of the community.

 continued on P7

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he Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce is developing a Strategic Plan to help guide our course in the coming years. The Chamber’s Board of Directors utilized a professional strategic planning consultant, generously funded by a grant from the Pokagon Fund, to facilitate the planning session. The Board’s goal was to develop a relevant mission and a 5 year, actionable, goal-oriented strategic plan which would take into consideration the divided responsibilities of the Chamber and the Convention /Visitors’ Bureau (CVB), the current business and economic environment in Harbor Country and the stakeholders involved.

The Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce is developing a Strategic Plan to help guide our course in the coming years.

There will soon be a second meeting to refine the results of the first session and to develop committees and assignments to move the goals, objectives and strategies forward. In the ongoing process, reports will be made at each Board meeting to assess progress and fine tune. An overview of the planning process and report on activity will be made at the Annual Membership Meeting this fall. Look for more detail about this project in the next Connection newsletter.

Le a d e r s h i p Greg Bubb PRESIDENT

Kevin Harrington VICE-PRESIDENT

Maureen Culp TREASURER

Marlene Kramer SECRETARY

Ray Vasquez WEB MASTER

Ann Dahm


Bonnie Perz


Harbor Country ® Chamber of Commerce Directors: Hassan Abdel-Moneim Nancy Adams Judy Burnison Nora Duffy Richard Kochanny John Natsis Linda Patejdl Christine Stevens

Harbor Country® Chamber of Commerce 530 South Whittaker Street, Suite F New Buffalo, Michigan 49117 269-469-5409 fax 269-469-2257 email:

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Letter from the Director  By Ann Dahm Director of Membership and Communications


his issue of your Connection newsletter is a testimony to its theme -- working together. You will read articles written by our members that give you real examples of ways we can work together to achieve business success. Listening to members, encouraging them to contribute articles about their experiences and concerns, getting the articles they write and then working with the Marketing Committee to publish this newsletter is a wonderfully collaborative process I experience with each issue. I hope the articles in this Connection inspire you to find ways to share this experience of working together. Collaboration is an active endeavor. It requires involvement. There is a direct correlation between involvement and benefit. Make your membership in the chamber work for you by getting involved at what ever level suits your situation. In addition to considering the information in this issue, make it a point to attend chamber mixers and events. Volunteer to serve on a chamber committee.

Become an Ambassador and be a connection between the chamber and our membership. Help us recruit new businesses to become members of the chamber, and remind businesses that are not yet members that we want them to join us in working together. Your involvement will provide business opportunities for you while strengthening our chamber. Your chamber membership brings you visibility through free and low cost advertising opportunities, the power of networking, access to relevant training and information, advocacy on your behalf and a voice in chamber matters. Your window decal and certificate identify you as a member of the Chamber of Commerce and your business is authorized to display the Chamber Member icon on your website domain. Display these with pride. Working together we strengthen the chamber and the vitality of Harbor Country as a desirable destination and a wonderful place to live and do business.

Marketing Together  By Jerry Welsh Garden Grove B&B


arketing is initially about awareness branding. The message is more about creating your target’s image of your business than any of the minutia often comprising ads such as hours of operation, pricing or location. This branding effort needs to be continuous. Repetition builds reputation, with size of target market and ad medium adjusted for your budget. Once your products or services are established and separated from the competition, timely call to action ad campaigns associated with festivals or holidays for instance can be used to generate buy activity. Who is your target market? How big should it be? Who are your competitors? Competitor with a little “c” is the local Inn on the beach or the shop on Red Arrow. It is my opinion that our competitors with a big “C” reside in Galena, French Lick, Saugatuck or Door County. This brings me to a point I would like to make about the marketing of Harbor Country. Our challenge is to out compete these other destinations for market share not within our own ranks. Most of our local businesses are

lacking the deep pockets to go this alone. We already have 2 organizations that are favorably affecting the traffic to our area. The HC CVB, formerly the Lodging Association, and a great partner in Travel Michigan who’s travel website is ranked among the best in the country in a state where the funding for travel advertising is among the worst. More can be done within our community. Partnerships in advertising, leveraging, and cooperation with offerings such as “hot deals” and packages with bundling of products should be encouraged. The resulting product has to be a value add from the customer’s perspective and minimally, a time saver. The total Harbor Country experience with multiple businesses must be more attractive than the big “C” competition. I believe more is needed to separate us from other destination choices.


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Working Together to Market Harbor Country  By Kevin Harrington Vice Presdident, Marketing Chair, Guide Co-Chair


or the past two and a half years, I’ve had the privlege of serving the members of the chamber. Some of you “old timers” may remember that this is my “second tour” so to speak. The reasons that I’ve chosen to donate my hours are simple: the money and glory, right? Nope. I do it for a couple basic reasons; first, this is not the same Harbor Country that I was born and raised in. Inevitably it’s changed. My brother and I are very fortunate to still live in this area where we grew up. It’s not often that way. So many of the people we grew up with had to move away to follow their path. I would like to see more opportunities here for the next generation. The other basic reason is one that has developed along the way; working together with my fellow board and committee members, as well as the office staff. They are a fine bunch of people and I feel better for knowing them. I’m especially proud of the work the guide committee (Co-chair Maureen Culp, Rich Kochanny, Natalie Mooney, John Natsis, Linda Patejdl, Ray Vasquez, Nancy Watson, and Tim Rogers) has accomplished. Putting this book together is a daunting task and huge responsibility involving checking and double-checking that the information has been sent in and then gets entered in the correct places. When information hasn’t been sent in (yep, believe it or not...that

happens!) trying to get in touch with the correct person so that we can get things straight. None of this could take place without the help of Bonnie and Ann in the office. Putting this guide together consumes an incredible amount of their time and energy. Once the guide is finished, it has to be distributed, a never ending, year round task done by volunteers. We’re always looking for more, so please don’t be shy. I hope we never take our eye off the ball and realize that the purpose of this guide is to promote our beautiful area. It’s also a handy reference guide for all of us who work and live here. That said, it is an expensive piece, and it can’t be done without the advertising dollars it generates. The good news is that it has a year round shelf life, making it a very good value for our advertisers. The more we all work together to get these guides into the right hands, the better the value. My term on the chamber board will be ending soon, and while I’ve enjoyed it, I will enjoy spending more time with my family. So I encourage any of you who have some time to offer this area to do your best to get involved. Together we can do great things!

Creative Packaging isn’t just about gift wrap  By Wendy Simons New Buffalo Savings Bank


ave you ever headed out for a long weekend somewhere and just wished it was a no-brainer? Waiting for you in your room would be your tickets to the weekend’s hottest gig, a bottle of local wine, and maybe a basket of snacks from a local deli. A minimal discount is incentive to bite, yet it’s the package’s appearance of added value that provides the appeal, not the price. Packaging is, at its core, cross-selling. It is taking advantage of one touch point with a customer to present them with another product or service with the goal of enhancing their experience. Done well, everyone benefits. There are two keys to good packaging: 1) Less is more. Too much of a good thing cheapens it. Each element should compliment the others. Finding the “hook” is important. Center the package around something interesting.

2) Limit coupons. “Tangible” is more satisfying. How could this be accomplished? What if there was a master list of product/ service options for everyone to draw from. Just think of all the Hot Deals we could pack into the Chamber web site: LA LA LAAA - Opera at the Acorn tickets, a B&B for the weekend, a snack basket. 3X THREE OAKS - Music in the park weekends, a box lunch, Movie and Acorn tickets, lodging ART ESCAPE - Gallery opening, local wine, snack basket, gallery map, lodging GET OUT & GO - Greens fees, charter boat ride, lodging FAMILY PACK - Canoe rentals, Captain Mike’s family passes, box lunches, lodging

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Great online advertising benefits to Chamber Members!  From the Internet/Technology Committee


eed more visibility for your web site? Cost effective online advertising is available at the official Harbor Country® site, and has great ad rates for members, from as little as $20 a month. Marketing experts agree that online advertising is much more cost effective than print advertising and is viewed 24/7 by visitors on the world wide web, not just local or regional circulation.

Get the Best Value

120 x 90 Tile Ad $20/Month

If you are advertising on a local or regional site that gets 20,000 page views in a month, you will obviously get more exposure if you spent the same or even less money advertising on a site with 20 to 30 times more traffic. It's like the difference between billboard exposure on the Dan Ryan expressway verses the same billboard on US 12 in Galien. What is important is how much exposure you will get for your ad dollars.

(Sample "Run-of-Site" Rotation, 468x60 Horizontal Banner- $22/Month)

Did you know… Our research shows that the Chamber's site, has the highest Internet traffic in our region, ranging from 200,000 to 500,000 page views a month, the highest of which is received in the summer months. In addition, as a member benefit, the Chamber offers lower than industry-standard ad rates. As a result, our member advertisers are reaping the benefits of optimum visibility for their advertising dollars. As a member organization, the Chamber does not advertise non-member sponsors. Only Chamber members within Harbor Country can advertise on the official Harbor Country® site. This means that all that Internet traffic is dedicated to promoting only our members! Chamber members are also entitled to FREE advertising promotions. By advertising on the award winning, you are placing your ad on the only official site for all of Harbor Country®, ranked #1 on major search engines.

Learn More Advertising members are assigned a login account to monitor visitor click-thru's and ad statistics. To learn more about the advantages of our cost effective and free Internet marketing opportunities Go to our web page,, or call the Chamber office:269-469-5409 Note: Online advertising is available only to in-area (within Harbor Country) members in good standing. April 2009

120 x 240 Skyscraper Ad $30/Month


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Cooperation and Compensation  By Dan Coffey Broker RE/MAX Harbor Country


magine competing fiercely for a contract and defeating 5 of your competitors so you get the deal. And then turning around to offer 50%* of the deal to all your competitors if they help you complete the project. This is the way real estate has been done for over 50 years. You do everything you can to get the “listing” (the right to sell a house and get paid) and immediately turn around to let all your competitors earn 50%* of your commission if they bring the buyer. So it is not amazing to find over 50 local REALTORS® from more than a dozen different brokerages coming together to each pay for a gigantic cooperative open house on April 25, 2009 in Harbor Country®. They know that “cooperation and compensation” (the guts of a Multiple Listing Service) has always worked. Therefore they easily believe that “cooperating and paying” for a community wide open house will also work.

Local REALTORS® are proud of their cooperation in the MLS and in this particular project. They have earned the right to ask the question, “Can a system of cooperation and compensation work for other businesses in Harbor Country?” REALTORS® are careful to add, “We do not know the answer to this question. We only know what works for us. But it is certainly an interesting question.” *50% is used as an example of what might happen. There are no MLS requirements about how much commission is shared. There are no “standard” deals. That would be against the law.

Collaboration  By Lisa Werner President, HCCVB


ollaboration, not just another four letter word… Ok well it’s 13 letters! That is because the more we collaborate the more we all benefit, as a community and as local businesses. These are tough times and as we all know Harbor Country is a tough place to do business. Seasonal Industry is defined as the sector of the economy with its high and low cycles dependent on the recurring weather phenomenon or holiday or vacation periods. Much of this may be out of our control, but what we can control is how we work to find ways to pool our ideas and our resources. The Harbor Country Convention & Visitor’s Bureau has been doing just that for many years with Travel Michigan, the Travel portion of the MEDC that was formed in 1999 through an alliance between the State of Michigan and several local communities. Because tourism is such an important part of Michigan's economy, promoting tourism is also part of the MEDC’s mission. Their "Travel Michigan" team collaborates with local destination marketing organizations to market Michigan as a travel and leisure destination. They are the state's official tourism promotion agency. This year for the first time the HCCVB directed part of our

resources to a Winter Campaign, putting Harbor Country on the front page of Travel Michigan’s website all yearround. We were one of only three destinations featured on Travel Michigan’s website and featured in radio ads in the Chicago Market. The other two destinations are Detroit and Grand Rapids. With 2.7 million people only 65 miles away and so much to offer here in Harbor Country, it should be simple, but marketing a destination such as ours has always been difficult. Try to explain how 8 communities had the foresight to collaborate for over 25 years. It is amazing when you stop to think about it. As we have refined who we are, evolved to this place in time, and reflect on where we have come from; it has been with the feeling of collaboration in the process of putting all of the parts together to be a whole. All 8 communities each have their own unique offerings that make this the great place we all choose to live in and do business. With continued collaboration we can envision the next 20 years of working together. Thank you to all who have poured their heart and soul into making this a reality.

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I t ’s a l l i n t h e n a m e

 By Ray Vasquez Webmaster


f you type in a Google search for “Harbor Country” you may see a drop-down of recommended related popular searches. It’s quite amazing that those displayed searches are approaching 6 million.Over 25 years ago, when our destination was just a concept, there was skepticism about its success. Today, we have to guard our name closely so that it is not exported out beyond our 8 towns. In fact, not long ago, one community leader from a town further north was quoted as saying “you have become the envy of West Michigan”. Name recognition and popularity in cyberspace is often the result of visitor preference. When you have what people want, they will find you. Our challenge has been channeling visitor interest and translating it into vacations, shopping sprees, and investment in our communities in the form of homes, businesses and services. This requires continuous research in visitor attitudes and preferences, then translating it into site content and resources that responds to those interests.

Having a cool web site with a lot of bells and whistles may win awards, but if it doesn’t respond to visitor interests, it may not become a worthy resource. Take Craig’s List for example... a site that defies so-called conventional wisdom in site design. It’s very basic, and unassuming. Yet it has major media outlets chomping at the bit because of its tremendous appeal and astounding traffic numbers. It has tapped into that viral nerve of what people want. The old marketing model of influencing and telling people what they need doesn’t apply. The cyber community is now in the driver’s seat. We already know they recognize the Harbor Country name. Now we have to help direct them where to go, and what to do when they get here.

“Having a cool web site with a lot of bells & whistles may win awards, but if it doesn’t respond to visitor interests, it may not become a worthy resource.” - Vasquez

 (Now more than ever…) from page 1 So as you think about taking the time to drive to St. Joe or Michigan City for dinner, take a look at the membership list and consider the many outstanding choices that exist locally. When you think about going somewhere to get away, consider staying in a local inn or hotel and simply turning off your cell phone and going to a local spa (did this myself at the Harbor Grand this winter and it was great!). As you consider buying your groceries or other household needs, need artwork for your wall, or a photo for your relatives think about heading to any one of the many shops in New Buffalo, Three Oaks, Sawyer and the rest of Harbor Country that just may have what you need right in your own back yard. And when you need

assistance with your banking, accounting, legal or construction services (and yes, even your insurance) think local. Now is the time when we as chamber members can help one another weather the current financial climate until better times arrive. But until they do (and after they do), I’d encourage you all to do business with your fellow chamber members whenever its possible. The local business community, you, and all of Harbor Country will benefit from the effort.

“Now is the time when we as chamber members can help one another weather the current financial climate until better times arrive.” - Bubb


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The Chamber’s After-Hours Mixers with a Twist "sharing ideas, business trends, and community news"


any of the winter’s hottest deals were made after dark! When chamber members get together, exchange information, and apply creative solutions…the benefits of membership become clear! Attend or host a mixer, it’s a great way to expand your networking, and highlight your business!

The chamber’s After-Hours Mixers with a Twist are a popular way to socialize and network with other chamber members. Special thanks to all of the businesses that hosted such wonderful events over the past five months. After-Hours Mixers with a Twist begin at 5:30 pm.

Ambassadors Dionne Rigozzi and Liz Kaminski

Members and Guests socializing and networking

Jack Bauer and Caitlin Nitz

Ben Schwartz, Jeff Holmstrom, Dee Dee Duhn

Ambassador Scott Kelleher and Chamber Administrative Coordinator Bonnie Perz

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Lack of Information Erodes Customer Loyalty

ď‚Š By Diane Anderson Scrap & Spa


ith the unstable prices of gasoline, job loss, and media-fueled consumers’ fear of spending, many people that would usually travel to Michigan for the weekend or holidays may decide to cancel plans until the economy improves. Despite this, some businesses have seemed to hold their own in Harbor Country with hard work and determination to weather the economic storm. It has become more important than in the past to enhance customer service in your business, which includes frequent and updated information regarding the services offered as well as current hours of operation.

As a provider of a paper-crafting destination retreat, we often recommend restaurants, shops, casinos, spas and other local businesses to current and prospective clients. Since we operate year round, it is often extremely difficult to find things for our clients to do in Harbor Country during the off-peak season since many of the businesses close for the winter. In many cases, each weekend there have been people willing to spend their entertainment dollars at a dining establishment, only to find a "closed" sign on the door without detail to the hours of operation. In addition, a few restaurants and shops had posted hours of operation on the door, but when customers went back to visit these places, no one was there to serve them. In one particular case, this situation was brought to the attention of the business owner, who admitted they needed to leave for a family emergency but were unable to post a sign on the door. I believe that in order to work together as a team, all businesses in Harbor Country need to begin to take their position as a merchant more seriously....if you choose not to be open during the winter and early spring, or any time for that matter, communicate! Let the Chamber of Commerce know your intentions, and update your signage regularly. Many of the people who spend time in Harbor Country for weekends are considering a second home in the area, or may come back in the summer when you are open with regular hours of service. The perception of many visitors is that businesses in our area are short sighted and focus only on the high season clientele. We need to change this and can do so by enhanced signage, and consistent communication to the Chamber as well as local media. Inns, bed and breakfasts, and retreats will do their part to support the efforts of local shops and restaurants by sending our clients to your establishments once we can trust your business is open for business.


W I N T E R , 2 0 0 8 - 09 vol. 1, no. 2

The Harbor Country® Chamber of Commerce Newsletter


5 3 0 s o u t h w h i t t a k e r s t r e e t , s u i t e f, n e w b u f f a l o , m i 4 9 1 1 7


SPRING 2009 connection

New Members for Spring 09: The Harbor Country® Chamber of Commerce would like to welcome the following businesses: Beachside Cottages Casa Mar Christine Stevens Cottage in the Woods Escape to New Buffalo Executive Detailing, Inc. First United Methodist Church, New Buffalo Fisher of Men Charters Harbor Country 4 Progress Harbor Country Limo Heath & Company Salon & Spa InfoStructure J. Hurst & Associates, Inc. Kevin Murray

King Custom Homes Kucera Construction Co. Lake Breeze Cottage Lake Country Inn Mawzie’s Lofty Adventures-Zieger Centennial Farm Merritt Engineering, Inc. Migs Murray Millie’s Antiques Morse & Company Advertising Night Blue Performing Arts Co. Pablo’s Café Grill and More PierreAnne Creperie Red Tent, LLC Reliable Cleaning Services Sherwood Forest Rustic Log Furnishings Strings & Things, dba Yarn Studio Villa Nova Pizzeria Whole Nine Yards Yellow House Vacation Rentals Zielke Homes & Improvements, LLC


SPRING, 2009 vol. 1, no. 3 After-Hours Mixers with a Twist begin at 5:30 pm. Thursday, June 4 hosted by Tower Hill Camp & Retreat Center...


SPRING, 2009 vol. 1, no. 3 After-Hours Mixers with a Twist begin at 5:30 pm. Thursday, June 4 hosted by Tower Hill Camp & Retreat Center...