Tourism conference in GR focuses on Pure Michigan funding

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A conference being held in downtown Grand Rapids this week is dealing with all things tourism. The group is also wondering about the state’s dedication to their industry.

Hundreds of people involved in the tourism industry are meeting at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel to talk about how they can work with each other and the state on keeping a vital part of Michigan’s economy growing.

The 2020 Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism is designed to help share information and ideas about the dynamic industry and to get the latest on what Lansing may be doing to support tourism.

Three state lawmakers talked to the crowd about what government can do to support one of the state’s biggest industry from protecting the Great Lakes and even figuring out how to balance school calendars to help seasonal businesses retain part-time help.

Without question, the biggest issue on the minds of the participants was about the very existence of the state program responsible for putting on the conference.

Rep. Mark Huizenga, R-Walker, framed the issue in the following manner. “The project was funded by $37 million last year in a bipartisan fashion. The governor vetoed it.”

Pure Michigan funding, the money that’s behind those commercials with Tim Allen and more, was cut entirely from this year’s budget along with about a billion more dollars of spending. Some of that has been restored but not Pure Michigan.

Will lawmakers find a way to pay for the tourism support?

“I think there is a lot of will in Lansing to get something done because we know how important tourism is to all the state of Michigan and really for me it’s how important it is for the Muskegon area,” said Rep. Terry Sabo, D-Muskegon.

Sabo is optimistic, but the Republican-led legislature will have to get on board.

Huizenga says the prospects are about even.

“The likelihood of that I think is probably 50-50. I’m hopeful that we will see something. If we do, it will probably be in the next four or five weeks,” said Huizenga.

The supplemental spending, if any, would be for the current fiscal year which ends Sept. 30.

Next year’s budget proposal from the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would fund Pure Michigan at less than half of what the legislature approved, and she vetoed for this year.

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