MSU Extension to deliver tourism first impressions report to Cassopolis

Published 7:21 pm Wednesday, May 4, 2022

CASSOPOLIS — In the summer of 2021, first-time visitors arrived in a local community unannounced, with a plan to assess the area’s tourism appeal. Next week, those visitors will announce their findings and their plan to help the community improve. 

First Impressions Tourism, a Michigan State University Extension program, is set to host a community forum to discuss their findings with Village of Cassopolis leaders and residents. The form takes place Wednesday, May 11, at Marion Magnolia Farms, 57376 Twin Lakes Road, Cassopolis. The report will include both the good and bad they experienced, as well as a plan of action to help strengthen the development of Cassopolis.

According to MSU Extension, the FIT program is a comprehensive community assessment conducted by unannounced visitors in a host community positioned to lead new development based on program results. 

FIT involves developing community leadership, assessing the host community, sharing the results in a community forum open to all, and providing suggestions to drive community action. Overall, FIT helps communities learn about their strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of first-time visitors.

The representatives of FIT have already given their feedback to village leaders, but want to include local business leaders, educators, organizations and residents to make it a true community event. Village leaders will be present to hear the results, as well as guide the next steps in the process.

Even with the improvements Cassopolis has been making over the past few years – Stone Lake Beach, infrastructure projects, Midwest Energy & Communications SMART Park and more – Village Manager Emilie LaGrow said the group also had some critical findings.

“Sometimes it’s hard to hear the critiques,” Village Manager Emilie LaGrow said. “But in the end, it’s something that will help us get better.” 

LaGrow also thanked Marion Magnolia Farms for hosting the event, and encourages members of the public to attend. 

The event, which begins at 5:30 p.m., is free for the public to attend, and includes a light dinner and refreshments. MSU Extension asks that people RSVP by visiting events.anr.msu.edu/FITCassopolis/. Registration closes on May 9 at 11:59 p.m. 

Other event sponsors include the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Southwest Michigan Association of Realtors, The Lodges at Stone Lake, Ed Lowe Foundation, MEC, Cassopolis Main Street, Illusions of Grandeur, Smile Center and the Law Office of Stephen K. Woods.