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News from the Greater Munising Area: Virtual: The way of the future?

JAYMIE DEPEW

Ever since COVID-19 swept across the globe and physical distancing regulations were put in place, organizations like our office have held meetings online instead of in person to ensure the safety of everyone. While it has certainly been a learning curve, virtual meetings have presented not only interesting opportunities but effective ones as well.

One benefit of participating in virtual meetings is the flexibility it allows, according to Kathy Reynolds, CEO of the Alger County Chamber of Commerce/Greater Munising Bay Partnership. Before COVID-19, Kathy, who serves on numerous boards and committees, often traveled around the region and state to attend various meetings, workshops and conferences.

“I know it’s different for everyone, but I feel like I have more meetings now than I did before,” she said. “I’m able to get everything done in the same timeframe even though I’m doing more because I don’t have to account for the time I’d spend traveling to the meetings. Now, I’m able to do more meetings online and other business that I wouldn’t have had the time for otherwise.”

Aside from monthly board meetings and bi-weekly staff meetings, our office has also resorted to using virtual meetings to brainstorm for upcoming placemaking and art projects. Every week, office staff has met virtually with Mike Stockwell of Cranking Graphics in Pelkie to plan for said projects and provide constructive feedback on design and content. Rather than partaking in a slew of phone calls or sending emails back and forth like we have done in the past, we have been able to productively hash everything out through our weekly conversations online. Although it seems like one of those “no brainer” type of situations in this particular case, we probably wouldn’t have considered having virtual meetings with Mike if it weren’t for the pandemic.

Rather than cancelling or postponing completely, many events have taken place virtually as well, including 5Ks, fundraisers, and so on. Although our event Pictured Rocks Days, which is usually held the second weekend in June, was postponed until next year, our office is currently brainstorming ways we can safely host Rekindle the Spirit, our annual holiday celebration in downtown Munising that consists of pictures with Santa and other holiday characters, a parade, specials in downtown businesses, and more. It’s a tough call, for sure, but we’re thinking of ways we can still host the event safely – so naturally, we are looking at what we could do virtually.

With that said, even though virtual meetings obviously aren’t as intimate as meeting with people in person, they’ve proven to be a productive way of accomplishing some of our goals. I never imagined that this would be the new way of the world, but here we are – learning more and learning together.

Editor’s note: Jaymie Depew is the communications and special project assistant for the Alger County Chamber of Commerce/Greater Munising Bay Partnership for Commerce Development, Munising Downtown Development Authority and Munising Visitors Bureau.

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