Thousands of people flock to Excelsior for its scenic lakefront, quaint shops or restaurants. Now the city wants to explore how it can profit.
Excelsior long has been a local hot spot on Lake Minnetonka for thousands of boaters, wedding guests and others attracted to the quaint lakeside town. But the city says it rarely ever profits from its own popularity.
Now, city leaders are exploring how Excelsior can cash in on all its tourism and even boost efforts.
"Excelsior has this tremendous asset: beautiful nature ... lakeshore, parks, historical buildings," City Council Member John Olson said. "We have a great product, but we could make it better and maybe people would be willing to pay for it."
Last winter, the City Council approved a $20,000 contract with Sandall Marketing in Minneapolis to help oversee the "Renaissance project," first prompted by Olson, who founded the Minneapolis advertising agency Olson. Since then, a dozen residents, business leaders and other stakeholders have met to brainstorm ideas and are working to gather community input.
In August, Sandall Marketing representatives are expected to release recommendations such as charging a fee for corporate sponsorship of city events or charging admission to popular events. Other things like renovating a "horrific" bandshell, Olson said, could improve the lakefront area and be a bigger draw to the city.
"It's much broader than marketing," he said. "Excelsior doesn't need a brand; Excelsior is a brand. This is really about a product."
The city, he added, doesn't have a lot of revenue for infrastructure improvements because of a small tax base. Finding ways to boost city funds would alleviate that for the small town of 2,300.
"We're doing something that's a little unusual," he said. "It's really an ambitious thing."
Linda Murrell, executive director of the South Lake-Excelsior Chamber of Commerce, is on the advisory committee and supports increasing city revenue, but she cautions becoming a "festival atmosphere every weekend." The chamber hosts four events throughout the year and doesn't charge admission to any of the events, but it does get business sponsorships, she said.
"It's a delicate balance between making your city profitable and making it too busy," she said. "I just want to be careful how it's done."
Even though Excelsior is only one square mile in size, it's long been a big attraction to local tourists. That's getting a boost as new development continues to sprout up, such as a new craft brewery that opened this summer and talks of a future upscale boutique hotel, new steakhouse and renovated Hennepin County library.
"This place is hopping," Murrell said. "People love coming here. We have the gorgeous setting and the personality of the town itself. Bringing people to this town will keep it vibrant."
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141; Twitter: @kellystrib