Nearly 300 community and business leaders celebrate Northern Michigan innovation

NLEA concluded its highly anticipated 2024 Northern Lakes Economic Symposium and Showcase on May 17th at Boyne Mountain Resort, marking a significant milestone in fostering innovation and economic growth in Northern Michigan. Thank you to the sponsors, speakers, and all those who attended for making it such a special event.  

Gathering nearly 300 business and community leaders, alongside state and federal officials, the symposium highlighted innovation and its crucial role in shaping the region's economic landscape. Throughout the day, attendees engaged in dynamic discussions and gained valuable insights from esteemed speakers and industry experts. 

The program kicked off with keynotes Brian Britton, President and CEO of Kilwins Chocolates Franchise, and Jake Manthei, President of Aster Brands, igniting inspiration and setting the stage for a day filled with economic insight and opportunity.  

Breakout sessions delved into critical topics such as innovation in outdoor recreation, housing construction, land-based industries, and strategies for navigating the tight labor market. Attendees had the opportunity to learn from local innovators and industry leaders, gaining insights to drive economic success within the community. 

The Symposium also featured an award showcase, honoring the following recipients: Lifetime Achievement Award – Ed Grice; Project of the Year Award – Manthei Wood Products; Guts and Grit Award – The Community of Cheboygan, accepted by Dan Sabolsky, Cheboygan City Manager. 

NLEA president Payton Heins also announced the launch of NLEA’s strategic planning process which will result in a three-year strategic focus for the organization, and celebrated NLEA’s 40th anniversary as an economic development organization serving the region.  

“This year’s Symposium was an important celebration of the innovation happening right here in this region. We look forward to building upon this momentum at next year’s event,” said Heins.

NLEA weighs in on attracting and retaining talent in Michigan at statewide events

Attracting and retaining a strong workforce continues to be top of mind for employers across the region and state. NLEA remains engaged in statewide discussions to uplift the needs and unique assets of Northern Michigan.

On May 20th, NLEA staff attended the Michigan Rural Prosperity Summit at Treetops Resort. Hosted by the Michigan Office of Rural Prosperity (ORP), the event centered around the Roadmap to Rural Prosperity and strategies and resources rural communities can leverage to promote community and economic vitality. NLEA Strategic Initiatives Manager Sam Bailey participated in a panel discussion of young rural Michiganders facilitated by Michigan's Chief Growth Officer Hillary Doe that highlighted strategies for talent attraction and retention in rural communities.

On May 21st, NLEA President Payton Heins attended the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's Regional Talent Partner Workshop in Lansing. Payton participated in a workshop to discuss and brainstorm creative approaches to address the talent challenges in each region of the state with the goal to align around a collaborative path forward.

NLEA Supports Community Education

On May 1st, NLEA Strategic Initiatives Manager Sam Bailey participated in a roundtable discussion on Business Attraction and Retention as part of the Forward Cheboygan Series. Sam presented alongside Lindsey Clark, Senior Community Development Manager for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; Linda Damer, Regional Economic and Communications Specialist for the Northeast Michigan Council of Governments (NEMCOG); and Melissa Chambers, Regional planner for NEMCOG. The NLEA provided data on regional workforce, demographic, and industry trends to inform the discussion, sparking rich conversation among Cheboygan County business and community leaders. Forward Cheboygan is a quarterly series coordinated by Cheboygan County, presented by the Cheboygan County Community Foundation, and hosted by the Cheboygan-Otsego-Presque Isle Educational Service District.

Grant Funding to Support Food Processing, Manufacturing and More

Grant applications for MI Dept Agriculture & RD

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced it has a cooperative agreement with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) under the Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program (RFSI). Through this agreement, USDA and Michigan are working together to offer over $8 million in competitive grant funding for projects designed to build resilience across the middle of the supply chain. Using RFSI funding, MDARD will fund projects supporting expanded capacity for the aggregation, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesaling, and distribution of locally and regionally produced food products including specialty crops, dairy products, grains for human consumption, aquaculture, and other food products, excluding meat and poultry. Those interested in receiving a subaward should apply directly through MDARD’s MiAgGrants Grants Management System by June 17, 2024.

Grant Information

Qualified Small Distiller Program

The Michigan Craft Beverage Council (MCBC) announced the opening of the application period for the Qualified Small Distiller program. PA 135 of 2022 lowers mark up costs on bottles of spirits produced with at least 40 percent Michigan-grown grain. The legislation states Michigan’s small distillers, or an out-of-state entity that is the equivalent of a small distiller, may file an application with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to be certified as a Qualified Small Distiller. Qualified distillers applying for this certification may be eligible for a reduced mark-up beginning January 1, 2025. The online application is open from May 13, 2024 to June 14, 2024.

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