Published in Economic Development

Michigan brewers hope for continued Pure Michigan boost

BY Sunday, January 19, 2020 05:30pm

Craft brewing industry executives worry that a lack of Pure Michigan advertisements touting the state as a brewery tourism destination could have a chilling effect on attracting out-of-state visitors to their taprooms. 

As lawmakers debate a bill that would restore funding for the Pure Michigan campaign, which fell victim to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s line-item veto as part of an ongoing budget battle over infrastructure spending, brewery owners say the state needs to take action soon before other states try to lure tourists away. 

Pigeon Hill Brewing Co. CEO Joel Kamp COURTESY PHOTO

In particular, Muskegon-based Pigeon Hill Brewing Co. CEO Joel Kamp thinks Michigan’s loss could be Wisconsin’s gain. 

“It’s in the best interest of brewers, restaurants and hotels for Pure Michigan to continue,” Kamp told MiBiz. “The brewing industry invested a lot over the last five to 10 years, and we’d hate to see that (tourism) business go away.”

According to data from Travel Michigan, the Pure Michigan national advertising campaign drove “statistically significant” awareness of the state’s attributes featured in the ads, with the “strongest impacts” in culinary experiences, vineyards, breweries, distilleries, and nightlife, among others. As well, the agency found that 18 percent of Millennials, 15 percent of Gen Xers and 17 percent of Baby Boomers visited a winery, brewery, or distillery as part of a trip to Michigan. 

Kamp said the tourist traffic in Pigeon Hill’s taproom also has an effect on the broader city of Muskegon, which is investing $19.7 million in a new downtown convention center. 

Bob Lukens, community development director for Muskegon County, cited the convention center along with nearly $27 million invested in hotels and $9 million in new restaurants, breweries and distilleries as ways the city is trying “to shed its Rust Belt image and grow as a destination.” He called the lack of Pure Michigan funding “a real blow to communities large and small” that have leveraged the national and international campaign to bring in “new visitors, new revenues, and new investment.”

“With 2018 visitor spending in Muskegon County exceeding $300 million, and state and local taxes collected in the county representing $38.14 million, these investments in our communities are contributing substantially to both the state and local economies,” Lukens said in a statement. “Visit Muskegon and its tourism and hospitality partners urge the Governor and State Legislature to restore funding to this vital program that actually adds money to the state budget.”

Pigeon Hill’s Kamp said he brought the concerns over the Pure Michigan funding cut to leaders of the Michigan Brewers Guild ahead of its annual winter conference, held earlier this month in Kalamazoo. The effects of the cuts hadn’t really been on his radar until he heard concerns brought up during the Muskegon County Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee, of which he’s now a member. 

“It’s definitely a real concern,” Kamp said, “but it’s just hard to put a dollar amount to it.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct Joel Kamp’s title as CEO of Pigeon Hill Brewing Co. 

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