The new year brings many changes, and this is especially true for the team at Ohio’s tourism team of Lake Erie Shores & Islands. For the first time in their 14-year history, the employees of Erie County Visitors & Convention Bureau and the Ottawa County Visitors Bureau, will officially be working for one organization.
The staff of the two visitors bureaus all became employees of the new organization of Lake Erie Shores & Islands (LESI), with a newly-formed board as their employer.
This new board of directors is charged with focusing on “big picture” items relevant to the two-county region and is made up of a nine-person structure dictated by the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Code of Regulations. Following are the seats on the board, including the person currently appointed:
- Ottawa County Commissioners: Commissioner Mark Stahl
- Erie County Commissioners: Commissioner Pat Shenigo
- Ottawa County Improvement Corporation appointment: Jamie Beier Grant (Ottawa County Improvement Corporation)
- Erie County Economic Development Corporation: Jim Miller (Civista Bank)
- Erie County Visitors & Convention Bureau Board: Lee Alexakos (Cedar Fair Entertainment Company)
- Ottawa County Visitors Bureau Board: David Dunn (Sandusky Yacht Club)
- Appointment made jointly by the two Visitors Bureaus: Currently vacant
- Non-voting Board Liaison from each Visitors Bureau: Brian Shanle (Kalahari Resorts and Conventions) and Peter Huston (Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce)
“We look forward to moving ahead as one streamlined organization,” said Lake Erie Shores & Islands President Larry Fletcher. “Our goal with our new and existing boards is to further reinforce the mission of Lake Erie Shores & Islands – to grow the region’s tourism economy through collaborative promotion that increases visitor spending and makes Lake Erie Shores & Islands the ideal place to play, live, and work.”
As a part of Lake Erie Shores & Islands multiyear strategic plan, a “Governance Task Force” made up of representatives from the two visitors bureaus and boards of county commissioners met to create the plan for this new organization. The plan was formally approved by all parties early in 2018 and the process of creating a new corporation and seating its board was completed by mid-year. The new board met several times in late 2018 including a facilitated work session that resulted in four major strategic focus areas, all consistent with recommendations in the long-range strategic plan our two boards completed the year before: Marketing, Workforce Development Support, Advocacy, and Funding.
The two existing visitors bureau boards will continue operating, as they will allocate funding for Lake Erie Shores & Islands. There will continue to be county-specific initiatives to discuss and act on.