For most Michiganders, the first signs of spring are grass poking through melting snow, robins looking for nesting material and fishing shanties breaking through thin ice. For Michigan campground owners, the first sign that spring is just around the corner is the annual Conference & Expo, hosted by the Michigan Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC Michigan).

Set for March 18-20 at the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mt. Pleasant, the Conference & Expo is the association’s yearly get-together that offers educational seminars, trade vendors, and the fun and fellowship of longtime friends who use the event to kick-start their camping season.

Ali Gase, ARVC Michigan’s board administrator, told Woodall’s Campground Management that the Conference & Expo is “shaping up really well.”

“We’re really excited. We have a great lineup of seminars on topics like ‘Spooktacular’ Halloween activities, digital security, septic maintenance, succession planning and how the new federal tax program affects your business,” Gase said, mentioning that two other seminars will update attendees on the latest developments from the state’s Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Natural Resources.

Ali Gase

The keynote presentation is “Listening for Better Business” by Amy Wirtz, a Certified Exit Planning Advisor, collaborative lawyer, mediator, arbitrator, lecturer, consultant and teacher. As a certified collaborative lawyer for more than 13 years and a mediator for an eight-year period, Wirtz has extensive training in interest-based negotiations, listening skills, reframing and alternate dispute resolutions.

If the name sounds familiar, Gase mentoned, it’s because Wirtz was one of the presenters at the national ARVC conference in November. She has presented at similar campground owners events in California and Wisconsin.

“Some of our members saw her at national and they came back and said ‘She’s phenomenal. We have got to have this person at our conference,’” Gase said. “She gave me a little head’s up on some of what she’s doing with the keynote speech and it’s going to be a training on how to better listen to your employees as well as your customers, with the result being that you’ll improve every aspect of your business.”

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