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      Familiar Face to Guide GI's Tourism Efforts

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      Putting "heads in beds" is big business in central Nebraska, where tourism is third behind only agriculture and manufacturing. And now the city that's home to the Nebraska State Fair and State Volleyball has a new tourism boss who's not so new after all.

      Brad Mellema was announced Monday as the new executive director of the Grand Island / Hall County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

      He replaces Renee Seifert who resigned in order to be closer to her aging parents.

      Mellema is currently the head of the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center, which focuses on the Sandhill Crane migration each spring and other nature activities.

      He says he's excited to tell visitors about everything the area offers.

      "I love Nebraska. I'm a Nebraskan, born and raised here. I really love the quality of life we have here and only thing I love more than Nebraska is sharing it with someone from someplace else," he said.
      Tourism Board Chair Mike Swanson praised Mellema for being personable and having good, established relationships in the community.
      Swanson said, "It's not just about being in front, it's about behind the scenes so communication is what really stood out to me."
      The Grand Island CVB is funded by a two-percent lodging tax. It promotes the community as a place to host events like sports tournaments, conventions, and farm shows.
      Mellema said he wants to build on those events, and gave credit to those who have worked to land and keep those attractions.
      He said, "Anything meaningful that gets done that I've been associated with has had partners and other players that have come in and you take people and build synergy with that and you're able to launch out further than any one organization could do. We want to continue to do that."
      Mellema will be leaving the Crane Trust Nature Center to begin his new job in a few weeks.
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