Bryan Myrkle left Wednesday’s West Side Collaborative Forum optimistic that the communities that make up the “micro-region” on the west side of Lansing will be open to increased collaboration in the future. Myrkle, the co-chair of the Can Do! marketing committee said the two forums held in Charlotte on Jan. 22 showed a definite interest among communities in  Eaton County to collaborate on marketing and communication efforts as well as a desire to brand or re-brand what he refers to as the micro region.

Discussions at the two forums centered on the results and recommendations stemming from a survey conducted by Cobalt Community Research last fall regarding the utilization and awareness of three major assets in Charlotte — AL!VE, Charlotte Aquatic Center and the Charlotte Performing Arts Center.

Myrkle said the main thrust of the recommendations the group received through this process is that it is going to take a collaborative effort from several surrounding communities to effectively market all that this region has to offer.

“We can’t go it alone,” Myrkle said. “We can’t be effective as a small rural community with the limited resources we have trying to promote ourselves through a very wide region.”

William Saint Amour, director of Cobalt Community Research said the survey results identified opportunities to increase awareness of all of the assets and activities taking place in Eaton County. He presented three recommendations for moving forward:

• Develop a regional brand and cooperative “system” with defined outreach inputs and outputs to maximize effectiveness and efficiency while minimizing resource use. Examples include:

• Expand cooperation in marketing to promote across organizations and communities. Examples include: Create a centralized email/contact repository that includes the ability to identify interests of individuals involved; Shift main focus to non-broadcast promotion efforts; Develop rules and oversight to ensure appropriate use.

• Focus on a festival/expo strategy to bring new visitors into the area, capture additional contacts for marketing, enhance visibility, and increase sponsorship opportunities. Examples include: Side benefit of attracting businesses and new, active residents; Good learning opportunity for regional cooperation and integrating the preferences expressed by residents in the focus groups and survey; helps people to try businesses and programs that they may not normally try if they were not in the area.

Myrkle said responses from those attended the two sessions, which included representation from Delta Township, Olivet, Potterville, Nashville and Lansing indicated that people were open to increased collaboration.

“It seemed like a majority of their interest was around coordinating and collaborating marketing efforts,” Myrkle said. “It was pretty clear that there is not much support for a separate or new organization. Folks think established organizations should work collaboratively to coordinate those efforts. There was also not a lot of support for creating a new festival.”

Myrkle said the conversations on this effort are just beginning. He said similar presentations will be made to organizations in Charlotte and he has been invited to present the survey and recommendations in other communities in Eaton County.