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To help local businesses attract more customers, the UW Oshkosh Small Business Development Center and the Tri-County Tourism Alliance will conduct a comprehensive visitor study this summer.

Funded by a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the study will gather information from visitors to the area this summer and fall.

“The purpose of the study is to identify what are the best geographic areas to market Central Wisconsin to as a tourist destination,” said Bob O’Donnell, the director of the UW Oshkosh Small Business Development Center.

“We are also looking to identify the top reasons why people come, or should come, to the area for vacation and recreation,” O’Donnell said, adding that local residents will be asked to participate in the study, which will involve in-person surveys conducted by UW Oshkosh student interns at a variety of local events and locations beginning July 1.

The information collected in-person will be supplemented with data collected by a survey website created for the study by the UW Oshkosh College of Business. Those sources also will be combined with the results of a phone survey of local tourism businesses about the nature of their current customers. UW Oshkosh student interns already have begun contacting those businesses.

A final report to the Tri-County Tourism Alliance on the results of the visitors study is expected before the end of the year, in time for the Alliance to plan its cooperative marketing program for 2011. The Tri-County Tourism Alliance is a joint effort of Green Lake, Marquette and Waushara counties to promote tourism and tourism-related businesses.

Part of the UW Oshkosh College of Business, the Small Business Development Center is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the University of Wisconsin Extension. The center provides free business counseling and low-cost training services to new and existing businesses in Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Marquette, Outagamie, Sheboygan, Waushara and Winnebago counties. It is part of the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center Network.