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Remodeling project is right step

At its meeting tonight, the Bemidji City Council will review a proposed remodeling project for the Sanford Center.

 The city-owned event center has been the subject of much debate: from the early days when it was first a proposal to the present day as it serves as home to Bemidji State University hockey, dozens of weddings and several conferences and conventions.

The project consists of remodeling the Lakeview rooms on the north side of the Sanford Center, which are used for various events.

 Local contractor Kraus Anderson Construction Co. submitted the lowest renovation bid for $110,900.

Fund for the remodeling would be pulled from the city’s Sanford Center contingency fund.

 In this case, the remodeling project is the right step forward.

It fixes an issue that likely couldn’t have been anticipated prior to construction. The work allows flexibility for event booking, which has been on the rise at the center.

An adaptable space within the Sanford Center should make it even more popular for smaller events. The remodel project, while costing money, will make the center a more appealing and usable place for more patrons.

Tourism boost

Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, and Gov. Mark Dayton want to infuse the state’s Tourism Department with more money.

A lot more money.

“We know that bringing in new money from other states is a good way to increase our economy,” Saxhaug said last week.

Dayton included more than $16.2 million for Explore Minnesota, the state’s Tourism Department, in each of the next two years in his proposed budget.  That’s almost twice as much as the department will receive this year.

Saxhaug introduced a bill last week to appropriate the same increase to the department.

It’s too early to determine whether the proposals will survive the legislative process. But the Bemidji area and northern Minnesota stand to gain if more money is dedicated to tourism, a significant industry for the region.

According to an Explore Minnesota spokeswoman, the agency is currently at 1990 funding levels, not including inflation. In fiscal year 2008, its operating budget was $10 million, which has decreased to $8.4 million this year.

 In a beautiful, diverse and bountiful state like Minnesota, it seems it should rank higher than 30th in state tourism budgets.

To compete, and draw tourists, the state can’t rely on word of mouth. It needs to market and promote itself – a strategy that would directly impact our area.