EDA University Center for
Regional Economic Innovation
Tourism Development Strategy for Idlewild, Michigan (2013)
Student-Led, Faculty-Guided Project - 2013
Authors: Cortney Dunklin, Corean Reynolds, Emilio Voltaire, Nathalie Winans, Matthew Wojciechowski, Michigan State University
The purpose of this project was to help with the revitalization of Idlewild as a tourist destination. To accomplish this, students partnered with the Idlewild Community Development Corporation to assess Idlewild's cultural and historical assets and potential tourist market.
The 2013 Student-Led Faculty-Guided project, "Tourism Development Strategy for Idlewild, Michigan" was funded by REI to help the community achieve economic prosperity. The project analyzed current conditions and developed a tourism development plan. Throughout the 20th century, Idlewild grew to be the largest African American vacation resort in the country and became the center of a national progressive movement. Following the Civil Rights Act of 1964 --ending legalized discrimination-- Idlewild’s niche dissolved and it couldn’t keep up with the expanding market.
The Michigan State University practicum team studied the cultural and natural assets of Idlewild, in order to devise a strategy to attract tourists. The team recommended a low-cost, grassroots style campaign to slowly improve and develop the tourist attractions before starting more any expansive project. Students found that if their strategy was fully implemented, the area could begin to develop more lodging options for tourists. Their strategy was to renovate and analyze one local site at a time to ensure success before spending marketing dollars on one-time visitors. Another recommendation was to create an office for the Idlewild Community Development Corporation (ICDC), and to open a part time position for a planning and development coordinator to attract investment to the area.
Though progress has been slow, there is a solid template in place. Idlewild has achieved national attention and recognition solidifying the importance of re-investment into the area. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded the community with a $30,375 grant towards technical support on a project that will turn the old fire station into a farmers market and community center, according to Patricia Williams, CEO and Founder of ICDC. With time and community investment, Idlewild could recapture its magic and once again become a perfect Michigan summer getaway.