Registration is live for the 2024 Northern Lakes Economic Symposium and Showcase! The May 17th event will focus on will focus on innovation—or the act of introducing new products, methods, and ways of thinking—to build on Northern Michigan’s economic success. Symposium attendees will engage with local, state, and national experts who have fostered innovation through new practices and policies. Between the mainstage and breakout sessions, attendees will have the opportunity to examine innovation through global, community, industry cluster, and business lenses.


In the Outdoor Recreation Industry breakout session, Brad Garmon—Executive Director of the Michigan Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation—will provide an overview of the industry in Michigan before delving into discussion about regional strengths and opportunities with local businesses. You’ll have the chance to hear directly from the businesses in our area advancing the outdoor recreation industry, like Jason Thelen the founder of Little Bay Boards in Petoskey, Jeff Thompson a Co-Founder and Product Engineer at Shaggy's Skis, and Rob Bellmore the Vice President of Advance Tackle Inc., a partner of Gibbs Fishing.


In January, the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Rural Prosperity (ORP) released the Michigan Roadmap to Rural Prosperity, a first-ever report that focuses on the challenges rural communities face and strategies to collectively build long-term prosperity in rural areas across the state. In one breakout session, Director of the ORP Sarah Lucas will dive into the Roadmap, opportunities in the state’s proposed budget, and how the ORP aims to support transformative projects and strategies in our region.


Current state and local demographic trends indicate that attracting the right talent to meet the needs of your organization will remain a challenge in the coming years. What can your organization do to get ahead of this challenge? In this session, Avazeh Attari, Director of Higher Education Partnerships for Michigan Economic Development Corporation, will highlight resources for attracting talent while Amanda Haworth, Director of Human Resources for Manthei Group, will share how they are successfully addressing talent needs. Additional speakers highlighting talent resources will be announced soon.

Explore the Agenda

Secure Your Sponsorship Opportunity Today

As a sponsor of the Northern Lakes Economic Symposium and Showcase, you will not only showcase your commitment to fostering innovation but also gain valuable exposure to over 300 business leaders, community influencers, and government representatives from Northern Lower Michigan. Your support will play a crucial role in shaping the discussions and initiatives aimed at advancing our region's economic success.

Secure your sponsorship today and be recognized as a key player in driving progress and prosperity in our community. Contact Sam Bailey to learn more about sponsorship opportunities or visit our website at

Warm Winter Takes Toll on Businesses:

Loans Available

Michigan's warmest winter on record has dealt a significant blow to small businesses, particularly those reliant on winter tourism.

With ski resorts, cozy cabins, and other establishments facing decreased foot traffic and revenue, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's declaration of a drought in 42 counties--including Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, and Emmet--has prompted the Small Business Administration to offer federal funding and emergency loans.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer emphasized the hardships faced by communities in regions heavily dependent on winter activities, but federal assistance offers a glimmer of hope for small businesses struggling to weather the economic downturn. Loans are up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred. Businesses pay no interest on the loan for the first year and a maximum rate of 4% for the rest of the loan period.

For more information on funding, including application deadlines, click the button below.

Federal Loan Information

Safe Streets and Roads for All Grant Program

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is offering $1.256 billion in funding through the Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grant program to improve roadway safety and reduce traffic accidents. This program supports the development of safety plans and the implementation of their effective measures to prevent injuries and fatalities. Focuses may include infrastructure improvements and other behavior-changing interventions.

The DOT aimed to increase community involvement by simplifying the application process, extending deadlines, and providing pre-application reviews.

Interested parties can access more information about SS4A on their website.

View Grant Deadlines

Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities:

May 30-31 in Cadillac

The Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities (CEC) is a community development program designed for stake-holders, economic developers, businesses, local government, educators, and non-profits to create a network that increases a community’s potential for entrepreneurship. The program culminates in an annual conference where participants attend to share ideas and learn best practices. Registration gets you access to:

  • Cutting edge speakers from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Explore 131 North, 20 Fathoms, and many many more
  • 24 breakout sessions embedded in real businesses across a vibrant downtown
  • An opening keynote on downtown development
  • Closing keynote panel on cultivating agriculture in Cadillac
  • Lunch on the 30th, breakfast on the 31st, and a fabulous evening reception

Early Bird Registration for this exciting event ends April 1st.

Learn More and Register

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