Why did you make all those changes in 2015??
The Project Connect Planning Committee made a lot of changes to the 2015 event, and we took that opportunity to share some of our reasons for the changes in the following letter. We have decided to keep all these changes for 2016 and look forward to any additional feedback you have about our event.
We are very excited to announce big changes for 2015 Project Connect! If you’d like to see the space please join us in Ovation Hall for our November Planning Committee meeting so that we can share our vision and hear your ideas and suggestions as well.
New Event Time! 1:00-7:00 pm March 18, 2015
Project Connect aims to reach the working poor in our community, with that in mind we have moved the time to include evening hours!
New Location! Ovation Hall at the Odawa Casino
We are very excited about all the new opportunities this venue will bring for Project Connect. Let’s start with SPACE! We have all asked for more space! More table space, more storage space, more walking/sitting/standing space!
This year all exhibitors will have their own booth space! Each exhibitor will not only have a full sized table, but there will also be space behind or in front of tables for extra display material and/or chairs for you to sit with attendees. We hope that this will provide a more relaxed environment. In 2014 we had 52 exhibitors, we anticipate being able to accommodate at least 70 in 2015!
Exhibitors will benefit from other items and services available to us including pipe and drape for needed privacy in certain areas, stanchions for lines and separation, linens for tables, access to a PA system, and assistance with loading and unloading of your materials from a designated loading area.
Attendees will benefit from additional services as we aim to bring back services downsized or eliminated in past years because of space limitations including clothing give-a-ways and food from The Manna Food Project. They will also benefit from services from new agencies that will be able to participate in our new, larger, space.
Other benefits for all of our visitors, volunteers, and exhibitors include covered parking if the weather does not cooperate. Also available is free valet parking, covered drop-off area, and access to wheel-chairs for guests with limited mobility, not to mention a coat check, and a registration area outside of the main room for the convenience of all.
The Opportunities & Challenges… we need your ideas!
Division Chairs and Planning Committee: These members are more important than ever! You will be working together to envision a new expanded Project Connect. You will help bring ideas for NEW services and NEW exhibitors to the table. You will connect with those in your field in an effort to serve those in need in our community.
Direct Services: While we will have space to provide more education and information to our guests, we encourage exhibitors to focus on what SERVICE you can provide for our community. Is there a service that your agency would be able to provide onsite such as health screening, application assistance, registrations, etc.? In the past space has been a limiting factor but now is the time to try something new. Think big! Do you need more space, special equipment, or additional funding assistance to be able to provide a service?
Evening Hours: We believe this will be a great change for attendees however, we realize it may create challenges for some vendors. Volunteers will be available to help staff booths, where that’s appropriate. What other challenges/concerns do you anticipate?
More Children: Due to the event being open outside of school hours we anticipate more children and older children attending. This will be great for the children’s section, including our state police Child ID program. However, to provide parents freedom to visit the exhibitors we would like ideas for childcare, child activities and/or entertainment.
Food Service: In the past we have provided a light lunch to attendees. There are limitations with food service at the Casino so things will be different but there are still options available. We plan to keep the culinary teams from Petoskey and Boyne City High Schools involved.
Personal Care Item Give-A-Ways: The planning committee has been tapering this service off for the past few years. While this has been a nice perk, it has become a very time consuming endeavor for the planning committee, and one in which few participate. We have tried letters, phone calls, and donation drives in the community and through our exhibitors. No effort has been hugely successful and last year we were left with boxes of random items that attendees didn’t want.
Employees: The Casino is one of the largest employers in our community with 550 employees, many of whom are in need of services provided by Project Connect. By having this event on-site, interested employees will be able to come during breaks or before/after shifts. Allowing a large pool of attendees easy access to Project Connect, and hopefully increasing our community reach.
Clothing Give-A-Way: This was a service offered in the past, one which many were sad to leave behind. Our aim is to bring this back for 2015.
Food Give-A-Way: The Manna Food Project would like to bring back a food give-a-way of some sort.
Costs: Ovation Hall does have a rental fee however, there are options that may allow us to off-set some or all of this expense. In addition we will be adding a small fee for exhibitors.
Venue: While we are very excited about moving to Odawa Casino we understand there may be some of you who are opposed to using this facility. We hope the information we have shared will help bring you to the same conclusion we have… that the positives far out-weigh the challenges. However, we do want to be aware of your concerns. Below is a list of some concerns we have heard in the past, if you have others please email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can be aware of them and address them if possible.
- Odawa being a smoking facility. Please be aware that Ovation Hall is a non-smoking room.
- Odawa is an age-restricted facility. Families are welcome in the casino, but children are restricted from the gaming floor. There will be clear and easy access to Ovation Hall through the main entrance. The casino often hosts family-friendly events in Ovation Hall and will happily accommodate our event with extra security as needed.
- Odawa being a gambling facility. Please know that many local agencies have successfully hosted and continue to host events here.
- No casino vouchers will be provided.
Why are we moving Project Connect to the Odawa Casino?
We have simply outgrown the Emmet County Community Building. Between the ability for additional services and continued attendance in the 500-700 persons range it was necessary to move to a larger space. However, options which fit our needs, in our community, are limited.
The choice to stay in Petoskey was made due to feedback from the committee and exhibitors along with the fact that Petoskey is where the density of population is in our two county area.
If you are interested, following are other venue options and reasons why they were eliminated:
- Old Carters building in Boyne City: during a recent survey this received the same interest as Odawa Casino however, it is less centrally located and without regular services.
- NCMC Rec Center: limited time options including having to be in and out in one day, more remote for those living out-side of Petoskey and lack of parking.
- Castle Farms: remote location, atmosphere bad fit for our event
- Bay Harbor: atmosphere bad fit for our event
If you’ve made it this far… thank you for your time and attention! Once again, we are very excited to announce these changes, challenges and opportunities for 2015 Project Connect! We hope you consider joining the Planning Committee and/or becoming a Division Chair. Please feel free to contact any of us, Co-Chairs Caitlin Koucky, Dana Lorian or Katlyn Cosens, directly with questions or concerns. We look forward to seeing you!