Port Clinton, Ottawa County renew push for tourism

New resort, new owner for shopping center part of drive for more visitors PORT CLINTON The new Beachfront Resort overl
May 24, 2010


New resort, new owner for shopping center part of drive for more visitors


The new Beachfront Resort overlooking Lake Erie is a testament to a business tapping into what makes money: tourism.

The resort, which had its grand opening Friday, includes a 150-seat restaurant with outdoor bar, 18-room hotel and jet ski rental. The restaurant's open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday.

Jon Schwinkendorf, Dan Cosic and Dr. Gary Milkovich purchased the resort one month ago and finished renovations in time for tourism season.

The restaurant has a Key West flavor featuring Lake Erie bisque and a shrimp BLT sandwich, Jon Schwinkendorf said.

"I think any business geared toward tourism in the Port Clinton area will help the Port Clinton economy overall," Schwinkendorf said. "I think Port Clinton needs to realize their golden opportunity is the waterfront."

Port Clinton is a community that survives between Memorial Day weekend and October, according to Port Clinton Mayor Tom Brown.

"When you have a product like tourism you must develop it. You must have a great marketing package," Brown said.

The hardest months for the city are between November and March because the weather brings an end to the tourism season. The resort, similar to other Port Clinton businesses, will operate until November and re-open in early May.

Richard Spicer, director of the Port Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce, said development is necessary to extend the summer tourist season.

"The Port Clinton area is struggling because of the seasonal type of businesses we have," Spicer said.

The city needs to make steps toward a more year-round operation to adjust for the slowdown during the winter, Spicer said.

Port Clinton is an industrial town, but times have changed, Brown said.

Within the last 10 years, several industries have closed, including Uniroyal, Celotex, Standard Products and Tri-D Industries.

Port Clinton Economic Director Jamie Beier Grant said manufacturing and industry can still stand on their own within Ottawa County. Beier Grant is also the director of the Ottawa County Improvement Corp.

"I think we have a very good industry base and a very robust economy," Beier Grant said. "The economy is very strong. We've seen more job creation over the last two to three years than job loss."

In 2006, Ottawa County had $130 million in new manufacturing and industrial investment and more than 200 jobs created.

Ottawa County has seen a lot of growth in the last few years with the commercial, service and tourism businesses expanding, but manufacturing remains the largest employer, Beier Grant said.

In Put-in-Bay, there have been numerous additions to enhance the summer tourist season.

Tailfins Amusement Park is expected to open this summer with an outdoor electric powered go-cart track and virtual bowling alley. The Upper Deck, a new restaurant and lounge on the boardwalk, has been open since Memorial Day weekend.

Harbor Light Landing, 753 S. East Catawba Road, was given new life recently when a Sandusky developer pumped money into the partially completed retail center.

"It's going to be a big part of Port Clinton," said Larry Freedman, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Lake Shore Realty. "It's the main hub for people going to either Catawba, Lake Erie or the ferries."

The center was built in 2004, but went into foreclosure, leaving 40 percent of it to be completed.

Freedman expects the center, which consists of 40 storefronts, will be finished in six months.

The center is operating at 10 percent occupancy, but already has 60 inquires, Freedman said.

The Port Clinton City Council also has its eye on development. The council will soon negotiate with a developer for a marina district project, which will include an indoor waterpark, hotel and conference center.

"We have to keep up with all the other (tourist) areas," Brown said.