2012-03-29 / News

House OK’s Extended Upper Peninsula Welcome Center Hours

A state budget amendment provides $200,000 to maintain operation of the Michigan Welcome Centers in St. Ignace, Mackinaw City, and Sault Ste. Marie on a minimum schedule of at least eight hours a day, seven days a week, in 2012. Any remaining funds will be distributed equally to other centers across the state.

The bill, introduced by Representative Frank Foster, is now being considered by the Senate. If passed, the funds will be available to centers this year only and would need to be secured again after this fiscal year.

“The legislature, state tourism department, and local communities and businesses have worked hard to make a sizeable investment in the Pure Michigan campaign to bring visitors and their vacation money to our communities,” said Mr. Foster. “It’s imperative we not only have the welcome mat out for them, but that we have resources ready to greet them, answer questions, and offer more suggestions for all the opportunities Michigan has to offer.”

Last December, Senator Howard Walker authored a budget amendment that ensured funding to keep the centers open seven days a week, but the House stripped Walker’s amendment from that measure.

Mr. Walker pushed for the recent

House bill to include the amendment.

“It was important that funding was included for these centers,” he said. Welcome centers “are integral to the region’s economy, and I am happy to now hear that the House will be restoring this funding.”

In October 2010, operation of Michigan’s Welcome Centers was transferred from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to the Department of Transportation. By November that year, funding for operating the centers was cut from $5 million to $4 million and hours of operation were scaled back.

The St. Ignace Welcome Center had its hours cut from seven to five days a week and staffing was reduced. Since January 2011, the center has functioned with one employee in the winter and reduced part-time staff in the summer.

The St. Ignace Welcome Center is open 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday. It is closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Mackinaw City Welcome Center is open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. It is closed Sunday and Monday. Restroom facilities are open 24 hours a day.

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