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Tourism Conference Focuses on Trends and Partnering

"Building Tourism in the Scenic St. Croix Valley" is the theme of a conference on March 11 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Rodli Commons at the University of Wisconsin- River Falls.

Highlighting the day-long conference will be a luncheon address by Kevin Shibilski, the newly appointed Secretary to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, and John Edman, the Director of the Minnesota Office of Tourism.

Tourism is a vital economic force generating nearly $20 billion in economic impact in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The St. Croix Valley of Wisconsin and Minnesota has an array of natural, cultural and historic resources drawing visitors from near and far, bringing tens of thousands of visitors to the Valley each year.

Conference speakers include Watchable Wildlife President Jim Mallman, author and demographer Julie Coates, and UW-Stevens Point professor of communication C.Y.Allen.

Topics covered include regional partnerships among agencies and tourism groups, customer service, and industry trends. The day begins with a continental breakfast and trade fair at 8 a.m. followed by keynote speaker C.Y. Allen, who will discuss the value of partnerships within related sectors, agencies and across borders.

With an academic background in organizational communication leadership and management, Allen is a speaker and consultant to groups ranging from several Midwest rural development conferences to the IRS and the National Safety Council. He is a member of Portage County's Comm-university Task Force exploring public-private collaboration for research and business.

Conference participants can choose two of four morning sessions:

o "Packaging for Business" highlights ways to develop packages to attract visitors. Presenter is Linda John, executive director of the Chippewa Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.

o "How to Work with State Tourism Departments" will help participants maximize opportunities for programs available through these agencies. Presenters are Ruth Goetz, northern coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, and Jan Sawinski, metropolitan tourism coordinator for the Minnesota Office of Tourism.

o "Customer Service" provides tips on gaining new customers and return visitors. The presenter is Alex Birkholz, marketing and retail management instructor at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College-New Richmond.

o "Exploring the St. Croix Valley" is a panel presentation highlighting outdoor learning adventures including birding, canoeing, boating and fishing in the area.

During a working lunch, Mark Kinders, president of the SCVRTA, will discuss trends and challenges to economic development and tourism in the bi-state river region, which is home to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and six state parks within minutes of St. Paul/Minneapolis.

An afternoon panel presentation will focus on current trends that can positively impact the bottom line of the tourism and hospitality industry.

Panelists include Jim Mallman, president and founding board member of Watchable Wildlife Inc., and Julie Coates, vice-president of Learning Resources, an international group serving providers of lifelong learning.

With 28 years' experience in commodities trading and sales and marketing management, Mallman, who is a resident of Marine-on-St. Croix, Minn., redirected his career to begin working with state and federal agencies to promote sustainable funding for wildlife conservation. He has been a strong supporter of Teaming With Wildlife (now CARA). The proposed national legislation has galvanized the largest coalition of government, business, and wildlife conservation groups. In 1996 he received the President's Award from the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies for his work as a national spokesperson.

Coates' specialty includes trends, demographics and generational learning and behavior. She is author of the forthcoming book, "Generational Learning Styles" and specializes in developing communication tailored specifically to various age groups' perspectives and preferences. She has been involved with lifelong learning programs for 30 years and worked primarily with rural communities while on the faculty of Kansas State University.

Registration by March 3 is requested by contacting the New Richmond Chamber of Commerce, 235 S. Knowles, New Richmond, WI 54017, 715-246-2900.

Cost is $35 for SCVRTA members and $45 for non-members. Attendees can also participate in a mini-trade fair with booths available for $50 for SCVRTA members and $100 for nonmembers.

The conference is sponsored by the St. Croix Valley Regional Tourism Alliance, UW-River Falls Office of Outreach and Graduate Studies, and the Minnesota and Wisconsin tourism departments.

SCVRTA is a regionaly and nationally recognized marketing collaborative of 19communities spanning the Lower St. Croix in Pierce, Polk and St. Croix counties in Wisconsin and Dakota, Washington and Chisago counties in Minnesota.

The conference is in the River Room of Rodli Commons, located on the corner of Cascade Avenue (Highway 35/29) and Sixth Street in River Falls.

Parking is available in Q Lot on Cascade Avenue between Third and Oak streets.

Permits will be mailed to those who preregister and late registrants can obtain permits at 8 a.m. on the first day.



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