Three firms left in battle to claim Grand Excursion 2004 account

MINNEAPOLIS: A regional venture designed to promote tourism in states along the upper Mississippi River is close to selecting a PR firm for a two-year project with fees in the low six-figure range.

MINNEAPOLIS: A regional venture designed to promote tourism in states along the upper Mississippi River is close to selecting a PR firm for a two-year project with fees in the low six-figure range.

Grand Excursion 2004 has narrowed its PR firm search to Weber Shandwick Worldwide's Minneapolis office, Padilla Speer Beardsley, also Minneapolis-based, and Henry Russell Bruce, an Iowa firm. A winner should be named shortly, said Andy Scheurer, marketing director for Grand Excursion.

Grand Excursion 2004 is a cooperative venture involving 42 cities along the Mississippi in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa. It's planning a year of events in 2004 to promote tourism in the region. The major event will be a flotilla of 12 to 15 ships, including the three remaining steam-powered riverboats on the Mississippi, appearing in the Twin Cities area from late June through July 4, 2004.

The winning firm will handle local, regional, national, and international PR.

Its mandate locally and regionally will be to drive traffic to the events planned. Nationally and internationally, it will have a broader charge of promoting tourism to the region beyond the 2004 events.

"The PR job is to define the region as a destination, Scheurer said.

The task will involve a heavy dose of media relations with local outlets, as well as with national general-interest and travel and tourism publications.

The Mississippi is commonly thought of as a key part of the South, but towns along the northern part of the river have invested $5 billion in recent years to improve their riverfronts and increase tourism.

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