Community leaders, public officials and businessmen from all over the region attended the annual Northern Lakes Economic Alliance luncheon on Friday May 3 in the Odawa Casino’s Ovation Hall in Petoskey and the overwhelming sentiment was Michigan’s economy is making a strong comeback.
Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Tribal Chairman Dexter McNamara spoke complimentary words about the NLEA toward the beginning of the meeting.
“In the simplest terms: productive people are more successful than unproductive people because successful people have better habits; they dream bigger dreams; they work from written goals; they do what they love to do, and, they can concentrate on getting better and better at what they do,” he said. “They use their natural abilities to the fullest; they are continually generating ideas to solve problems and to achieve company goals; they focus on using every minute of their time to get maximum results; above all they are constantly looking around them for opportunities to add value to everything; they have a sense of urgency and a bias for action; they work all the time they work; they develop and maintain a sense of forward momentum and, as a result, they become unstoppable.”
The NLEA is a mix of a public and private non-profit group that serves the four counties of Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet since 1984. Its mission is to serve as a resource to local communities and businesses to retain and create jobs.
According to the NLEA, it works with local governmental entities on projects including infrastructure, local company growth and expansion and helps companies with a wide range of other issues including creation and retention of jobs.
Stephanie Baldwin, the 2012 Chairman—and current board member—of the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) Board, emceed the event and introduced State Rep. Frank Foster (R-107) as the first elected leader to speak during the event.
“After the fiscal cliff, after the partisanship of the presidential election, after the Tigers lost the World Series, after 2012, things were at a stand-still for our economy in Michigan,” he said. “January of this year was our best year for job creation in a decade in the State of Michigan—5,000 people committed to Michigan in January to come and make their home and businesses.”
Foster then quoted a southeastern Michigan congressman who allegedly said: “Washington is a mess … Michigan is on the verge of reinventing itself. The Middle Class and the economy are growing in Michigan and I want to be a part of that fight.”
Foster said he could not agree more.
“We are growing and Michigan is the comeback state,” he said.
Representative Greg MacMaster (R-105) then announced a package of bills proposed to give employees leaving the military an easier transition to help them find jobs in the civilian workforce.
“We’re hoping to get this done by the end of the year,” he said. “This is all because of legislation we’ve been trying to pass.”
Sen. Carl Levin also spoke briefly, during which he credited the work ethic and focus on small business by Michiganders who were making an economic recovery possible.
“The (NLEA) is doing wonderful work, you’re kind of leading the recovery of Michigan up there in the Northwest Lower Peninsula,” he said. “We travel around the state and we see our economy coming back very very strong but I think that in the Northwest part of our Lower Peninsula you guys are really leading the way.”
Levin added, “You’ve got good links to the education community. You’ve got some great links to training programs for workers who need to have some retraining.”
Levin said the government has a continuing responsibility to ensure small business programs and regulations reduce the burden on small businesses wherever they can.
“Sometimes we realize that we need regulations when we run into some real difficulties that only our people that are doing inspections of our food or whatever can help us with,” he said. “But we know, also, that we’ve got groups of regulations that can be reduced and we work hard to do that in the small business committee in Washington.
NLEA Board Chairman Sheridan Rhoads then spoke.
“It is truly an honor to serve as this year’s chair,” he said. “The teamwork and collaboration that takes place here on a daily basis is truly inspiring to me. Also inspiring is the compassion, the competitive spirit and the enthusiasm the NLEA staff and board displays when they work with clients helping and growing businesses.”
Andy Hayes, the President of the NLEA, said one common denominator among people is that they want to have a good job.
“They want to have a job that is fulfilling,” he said. “If people can have a good job, a lot of the other things will be taken care of.”
Hayes added, “One of the reasons we’re doing this is to help families have jobs.”
Hayes said you can have the biggest group in the world but they all need to share three things: they need to know where they are going; they need to know why they are going there; and, they need to know how they’re going to get there.
“Everything starts with the entrepreneur,” Hayes said. “If we don’t have entrepreneurs that are willing to go out there and create jobs and create wealth, none of us would be here today.”
Community Renaissance Award went to Cheboygan’s Downtown Development Authority for transforming its downtown with seven major projects totaling $16 million.
The NLEA Maniac Award—for the person who has great enthusiasm—was given to Tuscarora Township Supervisor Mike Ridley for being a constant booster for the State of Michigan.
Six companies were recognized for completing significant projects throughout the state. Collectively they invested $30 million last year in local counties. They created and retained over 400 jobs. The companies were: