The recent hotel and motel expansions throughout the Chippewa Valley have impacted the surrounding communities and universities within them. Because of their contribution to the visitor population and local economy, the universities within the area were asked to comment on that contribution to the area and how the changes are effecting that.
Here is what they said:
University of Wisconsin-Stout
Douglas Mell, executive director of communications and external relations at UW-Stout, said the university draws in visitors to the campus and community through their on-site events and in turn, boost the local economy through visitors’ spending at hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other businesses.
“We draw thousands of people every year in from the outside,” Mell said.
To put it into perspective, Mell said that on March 9, the university hosted the Red Cedar Watershed Conference with a variety of environmentally related speakers and events throughout the day; that event alone brought in hundreds of people to the area. In addition, he said the campus brings in visitors through its performing arts department, athletic events and business conventions.
A Cobblestone Hotel and Suites is under construction within proximity of the campus.
Mell said this addition to the area is a long time coming, and the hotel will allow the university to comfortably accommodate more guests at its events.
“There has been a lack of sufficient hotel space in Menomonie for quite a while,” Mell said. “So it is going to be very convenient for us when we do have visitors come in who have business at the campus.”
The university is currently utilizing local hotels and motels for its events by reserving rooms so those who are attending are able to find a place to stay.
One of the biggest events Stout hosts every year, Mell said, is homecoming. The weekend events bring in alumni, families, prospective students and community members, increasing the foot traffic and subsequently the need for rooms; making finding a room nearly impossible, Mell said.
Last year, the university hosted the Science Olympiad, and because there wasn’t enough hotel space within the area, Mell said, the university was reserving hotel rooms in Hudson, about 45 miles away.
With the additional facility, Mell said, the school plans to partner with the new hotel on accommodations for events.
Mell said the university’s financial consultant estimated visitor spending at about $882,700 thousand annually in income for the UW-Stout Service Area economy, which is equivalent to supporting 30 jobs in the area. He said that number is expected to grow with the extra hotel space.
“Any time you have a new facility like this, it is going to make Menomonie more attractive as a destination,” Mell said. “It will be a major asset to us in downtown Menomonie.”
Chippewa Valley Technical College
Mark Gunderman, the communication specialist at Chippewa Valley Technical College, said the campus currently has a small impact on the visitor population.
“There are times that we are drawing people to the area that stay the night,” Gunderman said. “But, these are people who have jobs in the area and need to come here and take lodge here for that reason.”
Angela Eckman, the CTVC campus manager, agrees and said much of the campus’ influence on the local economy can be attributed to those brought in due to business facilities and resources they have available. Specifically, their niche is weeklong conferences held by a variety of businesses around Wisconsin.
“We have several conference rooms that get reserved by out-of-town organizations,” Eckamn said. “And so we will often be the sponsorship site for different events around the state where they collaborate.”
Educational conferences and nonprofit organizations are also large contributors to the visitor population the university brings in. Along with business events, these partnerships are a chance for those outside of the community to see more of the area.
Eckman said she has noticed a positive switch in the reservation process since the additions.
“When they have to drive to the area and handle their room arrangements, it can be somewhat of a demotivator in getting them to maintain their rooms at the Chippewa campus,” Eckman said. “But now that we have the hotels, we are able to offer more accommodation options, and I think we have been able to secure longer standing partnerships with some of those organizations.”
In the long run, Eckman said the new hotels will continue to aid the campus’ presence as a regional location for events and she hopes they will allow the campus to draw from a wider geographic area.
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Jason Anderson, the UW-Eau Claire assistant director of conference and event production, said the campus has a strong relationship with the hotels in the community bringing in people from outside the area for a variety of functions.
“Our job is to make sure that our client never leaves the Chippewa Valley period,” Anderson said.
Over the course of a year, Anderson said the university hosts 18,500 events both internally, through campus organizations and departments or business conferences, and externally, through community partnerships and city groups, that invite people outside of the community.
The campus is utilizing the hotels in the area by partnering with their sister locations during the academic year, and when events occur, the university reserves rooms for their guests and the hotels often offer deals for visitors.
“We have the event space and the event production ability to host the conference, and the hotels have the actual hotels and accommodations that are the expectations of those clients,” Anderson said.
Most of the events held by the Eau Claire campus are intertwined with the city, illustrating how recently they have broken down the wall between the university and the town. This is seen through events like the Eau Claire Jazz Festival, where community and campus members come together to host an event inviting jazz musicians from all around the world, Anderson said.
In addition, faculty and students have seen the effects of the changes as well. Anderson said family and friends of the campus community are returning more often because of the updates to see more of the city, aiding local businesses.
According to the economic impact analysis report on their website updated in 2013, the university generates over “$317 million in spending in the Chippewa Valley, resulting in nearly $210 million in annual income and profits for local businesses, more than $21 million in tax revenue for local and state governments and jobs for more than 3,300 workers.”
The hotels nearest to the Eau Claire campus are updating and remodeling their older facilities. Having updated rooms and services, Anderson said, has allowed the recruitment of more advanced conferences to the region.
“We are a sophisticated up-and-coming city that’s going through our own renaissance,” Anderson said. “We finally have accommodations that match that.”