Rummel has a Ph.D. in parks, recreation, and tourism resources from Michigan State University. She was CEO of the Saginaw County (Michigan) CVB in 2008 when she was asked to spearhead a merger with two other area DMOs, creating the Great Lakes Bay Regional CVB — which today encompasses six destinations clustered on or around Lake Huron.
We were well into the recession prior to it hitting the rest of the nation. What occurred in 2008 and 2009 was the realization of Bay County and Midland County that they simply didn’t have the financial wherewithal to be able to afford to continue their operations in the direction that they were going. They addressed the Saginaw County Convention & Visitors Bureau and asked if they would be willing to oversee the management of their organizations through the process of investigating whether consolidation was the right direction to go or not. When it was decided that it was the right direction for everyone involved, then we moved forward, passed a Michigan law that allowed us to operate under a single piece of legislation, still allowing for independent operations within each county but collectively market together more effectively. And that’s where we are today.
It’s actually a quite elegant structure. It allows for each of the counties to retain ownership of the assets that had been accumulated by the individual convention and visitor bureaus. They definitely complement each other’s product. Where Bay County has access to [Lake Huron], Saginaw County and Midland County have access to the [Saginaw] River. Each services a different visitor profile, but yet in our meeting and convention industry, we have been able to overlap on products of all three. And the visitor doesn’t care what county they’re in. To them, it’s invisible. So really, it’s just knitting together the individual aspects of each of the counties into a world-class product.