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Thumb Area Foundation Collaborative

Posted on August 5, 2013

The Community Foundations in St. Clair County and Sanilac County, along with the Huron County Economic Development Corporation and the Sanilac Tourism Association, are collaborating for the first time via a new effort to promote tourism in Michigan’s Thumb Region.

The four organizations have been holding informal meetings among their staff for more than a year and discussing a wide range of issues, opportunities and challenges common to the three counties who make up the shoreline of Michigan’s Thumb Region.

“Our three counties share a lot in common,” said Joan Nagelkirk, executive director of the Sanilac County Community Foundation.  “And tourism plays such a large role in all of our economies that we felt we should try to do more to support tourism efforts along our coastline.”

The groups call themselves the Thumb Area Foundation Collaborative and have chosen a touch screen tourism kiosk program as their first project.  The idea for the project came from Marci Fogal, president of the Blue Water Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB).  The CVB is working with MDOT to install four 22 inch touch screen kiosks in St. Clair County this fall.   

While the kiosks in St. Clair County will be larger in size, the Thumb Collaborative plans to purchase and install up to five smaller tabletop versions suitable for restaurants, cafes and local visitor centers. 

According to Carl Osentoski, executive director of the Huron County Economic Development Corporation, “Users of the smaller kiosks will find them very much like using an iPad or tablet.”  Osentoski added that current plans call for one kiosk to be installed at the Revolution Café in Harbor Beach, one each at the Visitor Centers in Port Sanilac and Lexington, and at least one portable unit given to the Sanilac Tourism Association to place elsewhere in Sanilac County.  “We want to encourage residents, visitors and tourists to explore all of the great communities that make up the coastline of Michigan’s Thumb Region,” said Osentoski.

The budget for the two-year pilot project is approximately $12,000 and so far the partners have raised half of that amount.  Two donors have already come forward to support the project, including Susan Zappa, whose father, Eugene Oldford, recently made big news when he made a six-figure gift to St. Clair County Community College.

“We believe in giving back,” said Susan Zappa.  “Our families have grown up here, thrived here, and we are devoted to ideas that support collaboration and partnerships.  I think it’s wonderful to see our community foundations working together.”

If the rest of their fundraising campaign is successful, the Thumb Collaborative hopes to have their touch screen tourism kiosks installed by Thanksgiving. 

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