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Visit Brainerd has new director at the helm

Even when an organization represents 10 lodging establishments bringing in hundreds and perhaps thousands of people on any given night, recognition may be hard to come by.

Richard Polipnick would like to change that.

Polipnick is the new Visit Brainerd executive director. A social media veteran, Polipnick is new to managing the Brainerd-Baxter lodging association bureau. Visit Brainerd represents the hotels and motels in Brainerd and Baxter and the recreational vehicle area at Lum Park. All told they account for about 700 rooms in the two cities.

If a conservative estimate has two people per room, the hotels in Brainerd and Baxter may pull in 1,400 people per night here.

Polipnick is using more social media through Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest to engage people. He is partnering with others for blogs such as Minnesota Backyard Birds and fishing reports from Leisure Outdoor Outfitters.

While tracking actual results from that effort is long-term and just beginning, his goal is to increase the Brainerd-Baxter area’s visibility at home and with visitors who may be picking other Minnesota locations for their getaways. For lodging, this year’s numbers are down so far compared to last year thanks to a largely snowless winter, but summer picked up strongly recently, Polipnick said.

He pointed to recent events like the Harley-Davidson Owner Group Rally and the square dance convention. The website — — now has a parks and beaches page and car racing videos.

Polipnick said people don’t come to the lakes area to stay in one of the hotels but they are drawn by all the activities here, which in turn puts “heads in beds.” The goal of Visit Brainerd is to promote tourism in the Brainerd and Baxter area.

So Polipnick, whose previous experience includes as an Internet and marketing consultant working for companies like ChamberMaster, is turning his focus to highlight events and activities in the lakes area.

The organization’s website video is a fast-cut montage of action. The focus is on vacationers who are looking for an area that has adventure, Polipnick said. He reminds people they can stay in the two cities, have water parks at hand and use the lodging as a base while they check out the world-class Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails or come to town for a soccer tournaments or car racing.

“It’s adventure — close to home,” Polipnick said. “Heck you can drive a race car at BIR.”

For Polipnick, a lakes area native and outdoor activities enthusiast, the job has been a great fit and allows him to talk about things he’s passionate about. Visit Brainerd sponsors a variety of area events, but may have not had the exposure in its hometown.

Visit Brainerd is not part of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, although the two work together. As part of its marketing effort, Visit Brainerd mails out about 300 brochures a month in addition to having brochures at the Mall of America and rest stops throughout the state.

Polipnick said his goal is to build on past generations’ familiarity with the lakes area and fond memories, to say that is still here, but there is even more to do now.

Polipnick took on the executive director position in March and works with a 10-member board, which has expertise in the tourism industry. Polipnick said his methods may be a little unorthodox. He believes in having fun on the job and partnering with others for mutual success. Visit Brainerd works with 27 businesses such as area restaurants to provide discount coupons to hotels guests.

For the future, Polipnick said Visit Brainerd sees the potential for big events in the lakes area. To that end, the organization wants to work to expanding existing events like the upcoming Brainerd Jaycees Street Fest on 7th on Aug. 11 and work with others to develop new attractions, perhaps a music venue, running or biking events. Polipnick said the facilities are already here to support them. He pointed to Missoula, Mont., which combined farmers’ markets with arts and crafts for a downtown festival.

“I’m very encouraged with what I see,” Polipnick said of interest in partnerships. He is part of a group with diverse tourism ties that meets to look at event and marketing. “It’s a great thing to be part of.”

In addition to bringing tourism into the community, Polipnick said part of the marketing effort is to let residents know what’s available in their own backyard for weddings, family reunions, birthday parties, or the American Barnstormers Tour at the airport Aug. 12-14.

Polipnick said he wants to raise the lakes area profile and Visit Brainerd’s role in it. To do that, he’s hosting an open house at his office from 9:30-11 a.m. Tuesday in Suite 12 in the BlackRidge Bank building in Baxter just off Highway 371.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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