Could Ypsi host the 2010 Michigan Energy Fair?

For the past several years, in June, the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (GLREA) has hosted an event called the Michigan Energy Fair to “promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.” For the past few years, this event, which draws up to 6,000 people, has been held at the Manistee County Fairgrounds. This year, however, they’re looking for another venue. The organization has recently issued a request for proposal (PDF), which is due January 18, and, from what I hear, there’s a movement afoot to lobby for Ypsilanti… Here, for background, is a clip from the RFP:

…This proposal is looking for local communities, townships, and locations for the Michigan Energy Fair, which has an expected attendance for 2010 of 6,000 people for the weekend. Previous fairs located at the Manistee County Fair Grounds, with a peak attendance of 6,000 people, 140 exhibitors, and Governor Jennifer Granholm speaking to a crowd of 1,500. While located at the fairgrounds a combination of tents, and indoor space were utilized to manage the logistics of the event. This event has run the course of a weekend with events opening on Friday and closing on Sunday. The GLREA staff is in the area for a week to oversee the additional days of set up and tear down leading up to and occurring after the MEF. It has been GLREA’s experience that regardless of the location it takes a community effort to put on the Michigan Energy Fair…

As it’s been explained to me, there are still some unknowns. Most significantly, it looks as though they may be looking for the host community to contribute financially – something which the community of Manistee hadn’t been called upon to do. As I understand it, the GLREA has historically funded this event (in part) through a $6,000 community energy project grant, which was not offered by the State this year. The wording of the RFP is a bit fuzzy, but consensus seems to be that they’re looking for a community willing to cover facility costs and handle some portion of the coordination.

Clearly it would be difficult for a cash-strapped community like our own to support such an endeavor, but I can’t image a better community to host it… with our proximity of EMU and UM, local organizations like the Clean Energy Coalition, successful initiatives like Solar Ypsi, and our proven ability to successfully host large outdoor gatherings (like ElvisFest, the Michigan Brewers Guild Beer Festival, and Heritage Fest). And, I don’t suppose that it would hurt if we got the Freighthouse open by then, and had a working rail stop on the Detroit – Ann Arbor line… Hell, we might even be able to get the Cycle Powered Cinema project up and running by then.

My first inclination upon hearing of this opportunity, I’ll admit, was to say that we shouldn’t apply. As our incredibly cash-strapped community is presently looking to lay off police and fire personnel, I didn’t think we had the luxury of considering a new festival which, while requiring support, likely wouldn’t be paying for said support. The more I think about it, though, the more it seemed to me that we should pursue it. If we really want to position Ypsi as a city where green businesses can thrive, I think we have to go for it. And, if we could get the local Universities onboard, offering space, and perhaps kicking in some money, I don’t imagine that we’d need much more. Also, I’m certain that we could pull together a volunteer committee to handle many of the details.

As I understand it, the Ypsilanti Area Convention & Visitors Bureau isn’t optimistic about our chances, based upon parking, kitchen availability, public restrooms and banquet facilities. (For this reason, I hear they’re planning to propose the Washtenaw County Fairgrounds.) According to the RFP, the GLREA is requiring 2,000 parking spaces, a banquet hall that can seat 500, kitchen facilities, and ample public restrooms. While I’ll admit that it would take some work, I suspect that each of these objections could be overcome with a little effort… We could park cars on Water Street. We could ask EMU to host the banquet. We could rent the kitchen at what used to be Cady’s. And, of course, we could bring in temporary restroom facilities.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way… Now we just have to see if our leaders have the will.

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11 Comments

  1. Posted January 11, 2010 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Does anyone know how we, as a community, could raise some matching funds to help bring the Energy Fair to Ypsilanti? I would assume that Ypsi businesses would be the biggest winners if 6,000 people came to town. Is the DDA engaged?

  2. Ted B
    Posted January 11, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Did the Visitors and Convention Bureau look into some of the possible solutions that you address, or did they just look at the 2,000 parking spot requirement and rule out our participation based on that? I agree that this would be a great thing for Ypsi, and I know that EMU would welcome it. It would be a shame if our VCB sent them to the fairgrounds without first exploring the possibilities here, in our downtown.

  3. Posted January 11, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I would like to clarify the Ypsilanti Convention Bureau’s position, as well involvement, as far as responding to the RFP from the GLREA for the “Michigan Energy Fair” to be held in 2010. We are still gathering information from the event planners and are getting ready to submit an RFP. We are in dialogue with EMU, WCC, DDA etc. to consider ALL potential venues for this event. We were contacted initially by this group because of their interest in the Washtenaw County fairgrounds and their. We are always excited and optimistic about any potential business that can be placed in Ypsilanti or anywhere in Washtenaw County for that matter. We are being sensitive to the both the history of the event and requirements of the potential customer. We appreciate the enthusiasm and efforts by local members in the community to assist in making this happen. We have already spoken to a variety of groups in Ypsilanti including the DDA who are eager to assist in any way. We will keep everyone posted as to the status of our RFP application.

  4. Posted January 11, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Just so I’m clear, Debbie, there’s nothing precluding the YCB from responding twice to the RFP, once on behalf of the city, and once on behalf of the fairgrounds?

    I’m also curious if perhaps any other Ypsi entities plan to respond to the RFP. As you’ve been in touch with the DDA, I suspect they aren’t applying themselves, is that correct?

  5. Posted January 11, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    And I’ve already shared this with Debbie, but I got word from Dingel’s office that he’d like to help however he can.

  6. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    Um, don’t we have a university here with vast parking lots sitting nearly empty in the summer? And isn’t there a fleet of super energy efficient busses near by as well? That seems like a good demonstration on energy conserevation right there….

  7. Posted January 12, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Mark:

    We only reply once to any RFP but may suggest more than one location or scenario based on their specifications. I do not believe anyone else is going to respond to this RFP – we certainly have had positive feedback from a variety of local organizations that I am sure will step up to the plate any way they are able if we should secure this bid.

    In response to Andy we are in dialogue with EMU as well as many others.

  8. Posted January 12, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Best of luck with the application, Debbie. Assuming you’re willing to share, I’d love to see a copy once you submit it.

  9. Posted January 13, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Always willing to share as long as our client has no problem with it.

  10. Ed
    Posted January 13, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Aren’t we, the people of Ypsilanti, the client in this case?

  11. Gus
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Have there been any updates on this? Have they made a decision as to where they’re going to have the event?

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