Reeling in Wisconsin Tourism
After the snow melts, and the smell of lake water permeates the warm summer air across Wisconsin, a new species begins migrating to the native ecosystems of many communities: tourists. For typical vacation destinations like Door County and Wisconsin Dells, local economies rely heavily on the support of the tourism industry. Tourists spend billions of dollars in the state each year. In order for travel destinations across the state to remain appealing to tourists, local businesses must continually offer new attractions and make modifications.
Funding gaps can have a significantly negative impact on small tourism-based communities. WHEDA recognized the importance of the economic boons that the tourism industry provides to the state. In 1991, the WHEDA Tourism Fund was created to provide loan guarantees to Wisconsin travel and tourism-related businesses to ensure that tourists from all over continue to be allured by the state’s beauty.
WHEDA Tourism Fund financing was exactly what Frank, owner of the Reel-Em Inn, needed to bring business to his small community of Sarona. The Reel-Em Inn, a resort on the beachfront of Long Lake, provided a place for out-of-towners to stay and enjoy local commerce. Frank applied through the Tourism Fund in hopes of securing financing to expand his business venture and keep guests happy. He received an 80% guarantee on a $25,000 loan from a local lender and was able to purchase and install new wiring and docks, pontoons, paddleboats, and a reach-in freezer. Once the expansion was complete, Frank was ready for another peak tourism season and hoped to provide the best vacation experience to those who came to enjoy Wisconsin’s great outdoors. Frank wanted to be a part of ensuring that his guests experienced the state’s natural wonders and saw it at its best.
By the end of 1991, the WHEDA Tourism Fund provided $1.5 million in loans for 25 Wisconsin businesses, and the Reel-Em Inn was just one of the many success stories. Though the Tourism Fund was later incorporated into the Small Business Guarantee program, its implementation showed WHEDA’s dedication to keeping a vital aspect of Wisconsin’s economy alive. With dedicated businesses and business owners, residents prove time and again that the many sights around Wisconsin are a true catch.