Getting Tourists to Come to Michigan with Dave Lorenz at Travel Michigan
Episode 10124th March 2023 • Total Michigan • Cliff Duvernois
00:00:00 00:28:01

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With Tourism, it's quite a challenge to get people to come to your city and spend their hard-earned money. But what about getting people just to come to the state? Dave Lorenz, Vice-President at Travel Michigan for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation faces that challenge every day. He and his team are responsible for the "Pure Michigan" tourism campaign that helps drive billions in revenue to our state.

Links

Plan your trip at https://michigan.org

Pure Michigan on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/puremichigan

Pure Michigan on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/puremichigan/

Pure Michigan on Twitter - https://twitter.com/PureMichigan

Pure Michigan on TikTok - https://www.tiktok.com/@puremichigan

Transcript:

Transcripts

Speaker:

Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: I always like to say that what

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we're doing today is really not for the people here today.

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It really is for the kids and the grandkids because we're thinking far out.

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We don't think like politicians who we're just trying to get to the next election.

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We're thinking how do we grow this industry in a sustainable fashion

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so it doesn't overwhelm people.

Cliff Duvernois:

Hey everyone.

Cliff Duvernois:

Welcome back to another episode of Ordinary People, Extraordinary Things.

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I'm your host, Cliff DuVernois.

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Much of Michigan is dependent on tourism.

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The main struggle that most towns have is how to get people to come there

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and spend their hard-earned money.

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But what about getting people to come to the state of Michigan?

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Being responsible for everyone here.

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Well, that's the challenge that today's guest and his team do every single day.

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Please welcome to the show, Dave Lorenz, Vice President Travel Michigan at the

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Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

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Dave, how are you?

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: Doing well, uh, really, uh,

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happy to be with you today.

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I'm happy to say that the tourism industry is coming back and

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that puts me in a good mood.

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Why don't you tell us a little bit about where

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you're from and where you grew up?

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: Yeah.

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I grew up in a little town called Cloverville.

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I like to say it was a suburb of Fruitport, tinny little town, went to

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Fruitport High School, had the great just plain luck of A meeting, a, a person

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who became very influential for me, a fellow by the name of Roger Scudder.

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He was a speech teacher.

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He flunked me on my, I think, 10th grade class.

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I was at a point in my life as a young guy that, uh, I had no confidence

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typical, son of a alcoholic who loved me but couldn't be the father

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that he eventually would become.

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And that general leads to young men having not much confidence in themselves.

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And I couldn't imagine talking to you today in this format if not

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for Roger Scudder to bring me out of that, that shell and really get

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me on the path that I am in today.

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And I just happened to see him not happen.

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I reached out to him after 40 years of not talking to him just to say thank you.

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And it was marvelous.

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So I have to tell you, if there's somebody in your life who has had such

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an influence on you, don't put it off.

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I'm so thankful I was able to see him cuz he is having some, some issues.

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So it was great just to say thanks.

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So I grew up in a little town went to Western Michigan

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University, studied communications.

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Was in radio for a while for 14 years actually.

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Ended up going to the Meijer Corporation as a media buyer, and then uh, helped

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to develop a collaborative marketing program where we would work with

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consumer goods companies from all over the world and find ways to sell more

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of their products at our stores and make everybody happy in the process.

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And because of that, met a man by the name of George Zimmerman, somebody else

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who has been very influential in my life who was the travel director at the time.

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And in our interactions getting to know each other.

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He said, you know, you should apply for this manager, director job.

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And I did.

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And to my surprise, they hired me.

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And that was 21 years ago.

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And eight years ago, George retired and I became travel director.

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What made you decide to getting into travel versus, as you're

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talking about before you were in radio for 14 years, you were working at the Meijer

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Corporation, very successful career.

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But why did you decide to change tacts and get into tourism?

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: You know, it's, it's interesting you

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say it that way because I, I never really saw it as a much of a change.

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I was always very much involved in my community.

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When I got outta college and started working in radio, I was

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involved in a whole bunch of things.

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Never could join Rotary or the Lions Club because I was so involved in other things.

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But that gets you involved in community.

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And it gets you to really understand your community.

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And as part of that, I became like a tour guide without even intending to do that.

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And also has, I've always been a big fan of travel.

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And I'm a marketer.

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When the position opened up for what was, you know, my first

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job here I looked at that job description and I said, look at this.

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They're looking for somebody to help in this area, this area, this area.

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And I thought, wow this was written for me.

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Because marketing is marketing.

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Whether you're selling a, a, a product like a state or a candy

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bar, you are selling a product.

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And you need to be able to do that in a way where you're still telling the

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truth from your perspective, encouraging people to purchase or act on that,

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purchase decision one way or the other.

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And so it was a really natural transition for me to go from selling, you know,

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hard goods and foods and such at a really great retailer like Meijer to selling

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the state as a travel destination and as a place to live, work and play.

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It's just the same methodology.

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: It is.

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Because like I say you know, whether you're using, using radio or TV or,

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or all the digital means that you have available to you today, or all the

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print and outdoor, you know, medium you know, basically, in all of these

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ways and in one-on-one communication ways, you're telling a story.

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And you are, you're explaining why someone should do something

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like purchase something or act by booking a trip somewhere.

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And I love to tell stories.

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And so that, that's always been kind of natural to me, even

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when I was a shy young guy.

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Yeah, it's just, it's always important to be able to tell the

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story with passion, with, trying to encourage people to experience

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my language.

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: Yes, And it's true.

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Now you come on board working with tourism for the State.

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What I'd like to do is talk a little bit about the history now

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of the Pure Michigan campaign.

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How did that get started?

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: Yeah, 17 years ago George Zimmerman,

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then director, I remember he called me into his office and he just

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said, yeah, I think it's time.

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And uh, I thought, okay, time for, what am I leaving?

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You know, whatever.

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And so, he said, yeah, it's really time for us to get serious

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about marketing the state.

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Cuz we had a program and we had a very limited budget, really limited.

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And so what with fewer dollars to, to invest, you can only do so much.

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And it really wasn't ex very successful.

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And he just said, listen, this is such a great place.

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And he had come from other, another place.

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He'd been all over the country, really Texas, Ohio, and everywhere in between.

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He knew how special Michigan was cuz he'd experienced the world.

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And so he just said, listen, this is a special place.

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You know, with our four seasons, with this very diverse culture

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and people and experiences and destinations within the destination.

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We should be selling this to the world.

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And if we're successful, we can bring people here.

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They can spend money, they can pay taxes, they can fix roads for us.

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And in the process, they can become our friends and we can get to know them.

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And they can get to know us.

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Maybe this will be the beginning of people not yelling at each other

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all the time, all around the world.

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Cuz that's what travel does.

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It connects us with people and it gets us to better understand each other.

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And it breaks down barriers like prejudice and misperception.

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So he understood that.

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He deeply understood that both who we were as a state, as a destination

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and what travel and tourism when done well can do for that state.

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So from that day, that was, uh, 18 years ago or so, came

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the Pure Michigan campaign.

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And that was a result of going through a process of selecting

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a, an agency of record to help.

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And we worked with the McCann agency out out of the Detroit area.

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And they just really had a great way to present who we were.

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And they really, I think, caught what the brand really is.

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This place with abundant, natural beauty, unique experiences,

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authentic destinations, and friendly people and they caught that.

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They understood it.

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So we started to work and we, we looked at, you know, using like the

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music of Cider House Rules and the voice talents of actor Tim Allen,

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who you can tell really loves the state when you hear one of our ads.

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And we put that together and it started to really kick into gear.

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And as happy as I am that it has worked to encourage people to come here and

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travel here, and travel within the state and spend billions and billions

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of dollars, over the years, what I'm most proud about is literally the word

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pride because it's helped to engender a sense of pride for residents.

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And when you're proud about your community, if you're

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reminded what a special place this is, you will support it.

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Fred Meijer used to say, you will support what you help build.

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So helping to build the Pure Michigan campaign through investment in this way.

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Everybody has an ownership stake in what we do.

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That's the great thing about working for the people because we are one, uh, and as

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we, I like to say we're a people of two peninsulas, but we're one pure Michigan.

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And we work together in this way for mutual benefit for all.

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And it's worked.

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I see this a lot, especially with being on social media.

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Take a platform like Instagram or TikTok for example.

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There's a lot of, I'll say, micro influencers out there that are shooting

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all kinds of little videos, little, you know, ten second, 15 second little videos,

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all of them are using Pure Michigan.

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Yeah.

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Either in the videos or in hashtags.

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So when you talk about pride, you see it.

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: And it's, it's really great.

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And I agree and, and I always take a little sense of pride

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myself when I see that.

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You know, it's, it's great that driver around Michigan you're gonna see the

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word pure used in so many ways because people have have tied into that word.

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They know it's a it's a catchy word that does reflect who we are.

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So they bring it into their branding.

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We have to be careful there because using the words Pure Michigan, you

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know, it's, it's a branded term.

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So we, we try to protect that brand.

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Cuz we don't want it misused and abused.

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It's really great to see people take pride in our community and

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then even use that brand in some way to describe their efforts as well.

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What I would like to do is talk about what

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has happened since covid.

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Mm-hmm.

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Because basically covid shut down the state.

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Mm-hmm.

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shut down most of the us yes.

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Most of the world.

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Now it's, we've we're in a post covid world and people are starting to get out.

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What I would like to do is spend some time talking about, How Pure Michigan

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is helping to draw tourists back in.

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On the flip side of the coin, keep tourist.

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because I think you and I discussed this before, if I remember correctly, it

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was 80% of people in Michigan when they go on vacation, vacation in Michigan.

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: It's around 50%.

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50%?

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Yeah.

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About 50% of our audience, I should say, of traveler come from Michigan residents.

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And interestingly enough, the percentage was bigger, like 55%

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before we started the campaign.

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That number by percent has decreased because we've increased the volume

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of travelers, so we have more people coming from all over the world.

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Nice.

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: So So we might still have the

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same number, or I hope more people from Michigan traveling.

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But there were so many other people.

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And I know that can cause challenges in some communities

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on really busy summer weekends.

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So we're trying to do this in a responsible, sustainable way.

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We're trying to encourage people to go to those really popular places at

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at quiet times of the year, or even during the weekdays of the summer.

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And then go to other places that are lesser known.

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And there's really busy summer weekends.

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It's a better experience for everybody, for the residents

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and for the travelers as well.

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And by doing that, we spread the business out.

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It's easier to keep your employees year round.

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As we become more successful let's us and figure it out.

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And it's part of the challenge.

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Sometimes people can love you to death if you're not careful.

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So we're trying to balance this out.

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We want people to come and experience Michigan, but we wanna make sure that

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they're doing it responsibly by taking care of nature and taking care of their

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communities and, and being respectful.

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Wait staff, for instance.

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We're also trying to make sure that we maximize the benefit

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for the people of Michigan.

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Primarily for our kids and grandkids because as we grow this

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industry, this travel industry, people have more first time jobs.

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They have more career paths to consider to going into in our industry or in

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other industries because what they learn from the travel work experience.

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And of course the stronger the state is economic, the better chance

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it is, this is gonna be even a better place to live in the future.

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I always like to say that what we're doing today is really not for the people

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here today, not the adults, at least.

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It really is for the kids and the grandkids because we're thinking far out.

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We don't think.

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Don't mean to sound so negative, but we don't think, we don't think

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like politicians who we're just trying to get to the next election.

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We're thinking how do we grow this industry in a sustainable fashion so it

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doesn't overwhelm people, but so that we can take advantage of the industry

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for the benefit of the people in the future and grow our economy while we

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benefit communities at the same time and while we benefit people in terms

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of understanding of other cultures, of education, of appreciation of nature,

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of the importance of working together.

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All these things have something to do with Pure Michigan.

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I know it seems a little dramatic and big, but it's the truth.

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As I said, if you're gonna sell anything, you've gotta tell the br the

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truth from your perspective, and we seriously think about all these things.

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It's not just putting together a beautiful ad.

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Because literally anyone can do that.

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Every place has a great experience to share some way.

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And we're, we're like that as well.

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I will argue we have a lot more great experiences than most places, but it's

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really about the future and creating an environment where our kids and our

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grandkids can stay here, grow here, have kids move on into other generations,

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and that they can enjoy that life in a even better state than we live in today.

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For our audience, we're gonna take a

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quick break to thank our sponsors.

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When we come back, Dave is gonna share with us how they get people to travel to

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the lesser known destinations, what pure Michigan means for future generations,

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and the personal impact that Pure Michigan campaign is having on people's lives.

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See you after the break.

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If you are enjoying this episode, Well then let me tell you, there's plenty

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more interesting stories to come.

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Cliff Duvernois:

Welcome back to Ordinary People, extraordinary Things.

Cliff Duvernois:

I'm your host, Cliff DuVernois.

Cliff Duvernois:

Today I'm speaking with Dave Lorenz, Vice President of Travel Michigan at the

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Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Cliff Duvernois:

When you were talking before about getting people to go to some of

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the lesser known locations or perhaps going in the off season.

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An example this, I went skiing yesterday versus going skiing on the weekend.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yeah.

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Because I knew that there would be a fraction of the people here.

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: Mm-hmm.

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,it's, it's more enjoyable for you.

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And it's, and it's, and it provides some business for that, that, business as well.

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Agreed.

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So when you're talking about presenting these ideas, how exactly are you going

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about doing that to promote this?

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: You know, the, the very first thing

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we did all those years ago is we talked to about, it ended up being

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about 200 people around the industry.

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People who were within the industry, people who were residents, maybe

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people who didn't even live here but maybe know something about Michigan.

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And we asked him basically what pure Michigan is to them.

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And I described it earlier, bunch of nature, beautiful places and

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experiences and wonderful people.

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It seems so easy, but capturing what a brand is is the most difficult

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thing a product salesperson ever does.

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Once you understand what that brand is, then you can, you can

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promote it in a variety of media.

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So we started there.

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And then over the years, I'm a big believer in multimedia, I mean,

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radio matters, TV matters, there are still many print media that matters.

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Yes, digital matters.

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So everybody's talking about digital, and digital creates a lot of awareness.

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But because most people are looking on their little phones, little mobile

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devices, you can't really emotionally impact someone as much as you can

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on a big TV screen, for instance.

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You don't have often the time to impact them with a 30 or 60 second radio.

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, You don't necessarily have

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that can be on a, a billboard.

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So when you combine all these things together using the elements and

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the benefits they each provide, you really have this well-rounded

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opportunity to reach people, maybe to change their mind or create

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the, uh, the desire to visit here.

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Since our biggest challenge always was to correct the misperception that all

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we are as a state whose best times has passed it by and you know, not anymore.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yeah.

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And the, so many people, the farther away you are, the more likely it is.

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You think Michigan is Detroit.

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And not today's Detroit.

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But seventies Detroit falling apart in trouble.

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And then you also think we're always cold.

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Well, there is July, so . So yeah, we, the thing is we, I am proud of our four season

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Yes.

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Destination.

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And I am a big winter snow fan and I wish there were more of us out there.

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Cuz I get out there and I enjoy it.

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That's the secret.

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Yes you do.

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And to your point, when you're out there in the wintertime,

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you don't have as many people.

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So you can really enjoy it and really experience nature and go to places

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you never thought you'd see or see from the top of one of our hills.

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See the awesome expansiveness of, of the atmosphere there.

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So what we try to do is tell this story using a variety of media.

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And, um, so far so good.

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Now, you're not only thinking about what's gonna happen the

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next quarter, you are also focusing on 10 years from now, 20 years now, when you

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talk about the kids and the grandkids.

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Cuz they are going to be coming up as Michiganders and they're gonna be going

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out, getting jobs, having families of their own, going on vacation of their own.

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So when you talk about thinking that far ahead what crosses your mind?

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How does pure michigan fit into that?

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: It's so important and you know, it's, I

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understand why policy makers think and act as they do, because they literally

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aren't gonna be able to do good things unless they get elected this next time.

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So most policies everywhere in this country are decided for the next election.

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And that's a real problem when you're trying to do what we do.

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Because that means there are really short cycles.

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You don't really know what your budget's going to be the next year or the next

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quarter or the next, you know, whatever.

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So it creates all these challenges.

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If you're a private business, you're not just looking at next year.

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You're looking at the future.

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Meaning a minimum of five years.

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But I would think when I used to run businesses, I was never just looking at

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next year, I was always looking at the long range and trying to get to that goal,

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whether it was to resell the business or to make it bigger or whatever it was.

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So that's what we do and we try to think along that, that way, knowing

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that we'll probably have to struggle against that reality of, of the

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people who decide on our, our budget are thinking the next election.

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They're also trying to respond to people who are ill-informed about what

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we do, why we do, or how we do it.

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You know, there's, there's this perception that if we make, if we

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bring in more budget, for instance, I make more money personally.

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I can tell you the literal truth about that is I'm more valuable if

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we don't have appropriate budget.

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Because that gets me out there.

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It requires me to spend more time with the media in what we call earned media.

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In other words, doing conversations like this with the media.

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That's my background.

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So I literally am more valuable.

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It's not gonna change what I get paid.

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It's just so important for people to understand the reality is we

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only ask for budget that we think we need for the following cycle

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to be as efficient as possible.

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Because if we don't think like the private sector, how do we do what we need to do

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and do it as, I don't wanna say cheaply as efficiently as we can, then we're

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not serving the people of Michigan.

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I'm a fiscal conservative.

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I will not waste somebody else's money.

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And I waste my own sometimes.

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So, but I'm not gonna waste somebody else's money.

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So we have to think long range in order to set things up because

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this is a big Dominoes game.

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And if e ever in the cycle of that game, you either advance those dominoes

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beyond where they're supposed to be, or one of them falls out from the

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side and you can't advance it again.

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That's a challenge.

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So I think of, of the planning cycle that way.

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How do we meander through these circuitous routes to get where we

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need to go to benefit the people of Michigan for the long term.

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And frankly, to benefit all of our visitors to come here as well.

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Because if we don't provide that experience that enriches their lives,

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then they're not gonna come back.

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And we will also miss out on this opportunity to change

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people's lives for the better.

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So when you go out and articulate the message of Pure

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Michigan, what is some of the things that come to mind when you go out there

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and you're, you're evangelizing it?

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: It, it always depends

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on who I'm talking to.

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Because, I might I might be invited to speak to, uh, a senior

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citizen group, for instance.

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I actually just talked to a fourth grade class, thought it would

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be the biggest waste of my time.

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Ended up being one of the most marvelous experiences I've ever had.

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It was awesome.

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This elementary school, and Taylor was unbelievable.

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They were doing an assignment on Pure Michigan.

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And boy, what they did, the questions that came up were so impressive.

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They were doing financial analysis.

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It was awesome.

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So it, so it always, it always depends on, the, what the purpose is for

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that either the group I'm talking to or the audience that's out there.

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Because I want to be able to meet their needs.

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So people often might say, what's your favorite place in Michigan?

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And I literally say, well, it depends on the day.

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Because I love where I live.

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And, and I, and, and I love doing a variety of things.

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A kind of an eclectic background and ex and uh, and looking

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for a variety of experiences.

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It's the same thing with other people.

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What is pure to me may not be pure to you.

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So we want you to pursue your Pure Michigan experience.

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And, so it's, it's always trying to meet the need of that audience.

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And then I try to again tell the truth.

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,But try to explain what they might be interested in.

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Making a lot of assumptions.

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And sometimes I'll literally say, so what are you into?

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Because my wife and I, we love hiking.

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So we're in the trails state.

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We have more trail mileage than any other state in the country.

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So we found the right state to live in and we love getting out there.

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So it depends on what you're into.

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We always try to serve those needs and, and react to it.

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Um, Being truthful and honest and um, and positive.

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I like that when you talk about pure being different for everybody.

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Cuz one of the things that was going through my mind is when summertime

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rolls around, somebody might think I have to get on the water.

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But like you just said, you and your wife are in the hiking, so you know,

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Michigan does on any day of the year for anybody can be multiple things.

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: Mm-hmm.

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. Yeah.

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I live less than a mile away from Lake Michigan.

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I seldom go there.

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Isn't that crazy?

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Because my, I can understand.

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Yeah, it's, it's crazy.

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So my wife and I built our house where we are because we're close to PJ Hoff

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Master State Park in Norton Shores.

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But we.

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we actually built there because of the crossCountry ski trails

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through the hills there.

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Yes.

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Yeah.

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So it's not even a summer experience.

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We mostly decided to, to build there for, for that reason.

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So it always depends on, you know, what you're really into.

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And, and I, I never like to make too many assumptions.

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Because people, like in my case, they'll hear, Hey, you live in the

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little log home in the woods and uh, you must be into the beach or whatever.

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Nah, not really.

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Not.

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but I know that some people, that's their most wonderful place in the world, is

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laying on the beach on a freshwater beach in one of our Pure Michigan beaches.

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I understand that too.

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So you and I have been talking really high level

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during this whole conversation.

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What I would like to do is kind of dig a little bit deeper and have you

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share with us maybe one or two stories about how Michigan, Pure Michigan has

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helped like a particular business.

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Like as somebody said something to you that's like, you know what?

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Pure michigan helped me in this way.

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Could you share a couple of those stories with us?

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: I could share hundreds of them.

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Just last weekend I was up at, uh, Mackinac Island at wintertime, by the way.

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It's awesome.

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Snowmobile trails.

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I had I had no idea.

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I had no

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: idea

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I, I don't know if they really want to promote that, but you can rent

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snowmobiles and, uh, on Mackinaw Island, the wintertime, and it

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was just beautiful, beautiful.

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Happened to meet one of the media people.

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I, I.

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Did not grow up here.

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Loves it here.

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And he said I'll tell you the truth, I never thought much of Michigan

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was going to school, I think at Northwestern, I don't remember.

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And then saw a Pure Michigan ad.

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I thought, wow, that looks pretty good.

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Started to come up here to the point where they decided they wanted to live here.

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Hear that all the time, all the time.

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I, I've met so many business people who have told me similar stories that

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they maybe used to come up here or.

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Before, but pure Michigan really helped to show them other things.

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They had no idea that, that we offered here.

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Uh, sometimes people were lured here because of our marketing efforts and

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came here for the first time, couldn't believe the awesomeness of this place.

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Move their shops or offices here.

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. I hear it all the time.

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And I really wish we'd have kept all those cards and letters that we initially got

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when we first launched Pure Michigan.

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Because in a different way.

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I know that we've kept a lot of people here.

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You know, Michigan, like too many states is losing population right now.

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And that's because of a lot of things.

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Politics is crazy right now.

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Yes.

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Um, and so there's only so much a brand can do to encourage people to stay here

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and be part of the solution for the future rather than the problem by leaving.

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But we do impact it positively.

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When we first started the campaign, we were getting all these unsolicited

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emails and cards and letters.

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We love the campaign.

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Oh, it makes me, I miss Michigan.

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I'm crying all the time now.

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Uh, I can't wait to come back home.

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I have never seen or heard of any product when advertised, people have

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asked to see or hear that ad again.

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Multiple radio station people have told.

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When our ads first started running, the people would call me and say, can

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you play that Pure Michigan ad again?

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It is an advertisement.

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But it's also when we are doing it right, it's also a little story.

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And it's an opportunity for us to remind people that life is worth living, living

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with purpose and passion and, um, and using your time not only for yourself,

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but for others, and, um, truly living.

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Dave, if somebody's listening to this and they wanna

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learn more about what it is that you're doing, maybe more about the

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Pure Michigan campaign, where would be the best place for them to go?

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: Tim Allen always says this, and

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um, you're gonna be hearing from another voice very soon as well.

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Ooh,

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: excited.

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That this is happening.

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Um, it's under wraps?

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It's under wraps right now as of today's recording.

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But, uh, really excited because we've been looking at introducing

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more voices in the campaign.

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Because it's important that we, we demonstrate the diversity

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of our people in places.

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So you're gonna see and hear that pretty soon.

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Can't wait.

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,But they always say, your trip begins at michigan.org.

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And we mean by that, go there, do all your trip planning.

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But you can find out about us in so many other ways.

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Just do a Pure Michigan search on Facebook or find us at Pure Michigan on

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Instagram and Pinterest and you name it.

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Twitter.

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We're all over the place.

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We're even on TikTok.

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Awesome.

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And with that David, I want to thank you so much for taking time outta your very

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busy schedule to chat with us today.

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It's been an honor.

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Dave Lorenz, Michigan Economic Development Council: Anytime I get to talk to Pure Michigan,

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I'm uh, uh, really happy to do it and it's always great to see you as well.

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And for our audience, you can go to Total Michigan.com.

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Click on Dave's interview, see all the links that he mentioned above.

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While you're there, don't forget to put in your email address

Cliff Duvernois:

and join our weekly newsletter.

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