Back To Bricks unhappy with city welcome
I have forwarded some of the emails that were exchanged between Chuck Sekrenes of Back To Bricks and Michael Young. First and foremost, I would like to say that Rockford is a beautiful city and one that all of the residents should be proud of. But when it comes to hospitality, Rockford severely lacks and I for one put the blame squarely on the city management.
As you can see from the email string, the city management and the chamber did little to promote our arrival in the city. All of the promotion occurred on the part of the ‘Back to the Bricks’ committee and mostly thru the efforts of Chuck and Nancy Sekrenes. Several attempts were made to contact your city manager, Michael Young, for interviews and he did not return any of them (email and phone calls). His lack of professional courtesy was a missed opportunity to promote the city of Rockford to the residents of the eastern half of Michigan. Furthermore, the lack of local promotion failed the local business community and their chance to make some additional sales on Friday night. His comment that it is impossible to close the main street of Rockford is humorous in as much as the rest of the tour stops (and those in previous years) have found a way to do so and some of them, such as Cadillac and West Branch, closed state highways (M-31 & M-55). I think he would have been much more accurate in saying ‘we won’t close the street’! We have found in the past, downtown main street closures work extremely well and brings the local residents into town resulting in a fairly large positive economic impact on the local economy.
I also found it interesting that Mr. Young thought we should promote Grand Rapids as the ‘beer capital of the U.S.A.’. Why would we do that? We were not going to Grand Rapids! Furthermore, he thought we should promote your Mayor’s micro brewery and the fact that he had hired a band especially for us. Well guess what? There was a posting on the Mayor’s brewery site that he has live entertainment every Friday night, regardless of whether or not we were there. It is very unusual that Mr. Young would choose to want to promote alcohol venues in lieu of the fact that our tour is about automobiles. It must not have occurred to him that alcohol and cars are not a good mix. I would suggest, if he thinks I am wrong, that he ask the Chief of Police of Rockford what his opinion on that matter is and not even knowing him, I think he would agree with me.
Finally, we had ABC12-TV and Cumulus Radio with us on the entire tour. In all of our overnight stops, city officials were interviewed on both TV and radio and were given the opportunity to promote their communities. The only exception to this was Rockford. And why did not one representative from the city or chamber of commerce think our arrival was important enough to show up for? Another missed opportunity to promote your beautiful community. What’s more, one of the tour registrants is also a member of Michigan’s Travel Commission and was appointed by Governor Synder. Needless to say he was as dismayed, as were the other 249 visitors, with the reception we received from Rockford. Many of us commented that it will be sometime (if ever) we return to Rockford and unfortunately, they tell their friends about their experience in Rockford as not being a very welcoming community.
One other thing, Chuck and Nancy Sekrenes went to the city office, to inquire about what happened, at 2:00 PM on Friday afternoon. They asked for Michael Young and was told he was not in. They then asked for the Mayor and received the same reply, “He’s not in.” Finally they asked for the Chamber of Commerce director only to hear the same reply, “They are not in!” Remarkable! What are the residents of Rockford and the business owners paying for? Who knows, maybe they get Friday afternoons off!
Once again, I would like to repeat that you have a lovely community and it could have been a great time for all. I offer my views with the optimism that your community learns from this and does not allow this to happen again and that your city manager, Mr. Michael Young, should learn to be a little more diplomatic in the future when it comes to promoting the city of Rockford.
Al Hatch, Chairman and Founder
Back to the Bricks, Inc.
A 501 (c)(3) IRS recognized non-taxable charitable foundation