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Introducing the Northern Lakes Innovation Alliance
The Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) introduces a new program that provides space for entrepreneurs to grow ideas and access capital.
NLIA Innovation logo
NLIA is an event for innovators in various industries to pitch their start-up or growth idea for a chance to receive funding. It also provides connections within the NLEA business, resource and financing networks as well as access to early-stage funding and the potential to meet other inventors and investors. The Innovation Alliance program is designed to cultivate a culture of innovation and problem-solving throughout Northern Michigan.

NLEA will host invitation-only events to hear more about each business’ plans. Join the program to meet with like-minded individuals who are focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. Read full press release here.
Northern Lakes Rendezvous - Innovation Event
The first NLIA event will be in cooperation with Arrowhead Incubator in-person on Wednesday, September 8th from 3-6PM at the NLEA Office space within CHAR-EM ISD located at 1313 Boyne Avenue in Boyne City, MI 49712

This is an opportunity to informally pitch your business plan to a group of like-minded innovators and investors at a small-scale event limited to 8 total participants. The event seeks to deconstruct traditional pitch night competitions and instead function much like a traditional rendezvous or business expo.
Space will be provided for participating businesses to display your products, goods, and services.
Entrepreneur workshop in Bay Harbor
Charlevoix taking bids for vacant lot
1522 Bridge St Charlevoix
The City of Charlevoix is accepting bids for the vacant lot located at 1522 Bridge Street. The City will accept and publicly open bids on Thursday, October 7th, 2021 at 10:00 am EDT at the office of the City Clerk, City of Charlevoix, 210 State Street, Charlevoix, MI 49720.

The City of Charlevoix will sell this shovel-ready property to a developer that shares a vision for the parcel being used for Year-Round Housing. The developer may have an additional interest in commercial uses. Commercial uses are welcome in proposals, but emphasis should be placed on the year-round housing units created. The parcel will have a year-round residency deed restriction, ensuring that future development will house active community members for generations to come. Click the button to see all the details.
President Biden visited King Orchard
Juliette King with President Biden July 2021
President Joe Biden took a tour of a northern Michigan cherry orchard last month.

At King Orchard in Central Lake, Biden met with several Michigan politicians including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow.

The Kings told the president how climate change was hurting their business. They expect to only yield only 15 percent of their tart and 25 percent of their sweet cherries this year due to drought and freezing conditions.

During the tour, Biden spoke with Juliette King McAvoy, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Kings Orchard. Juliette is on the Board of Directors for Northern Lakes Economic Alliance.

She told the president how climate change was impacting their family business.

“We’d had four crop failures. That is very alarming to us. There’s not many business models that can withstand zero income every four or five years,” she said.

The family says the president seemed receptive to those concerns, as well as their wish to create a path to citizenship for their pickers , who have worked on the farm for over 30 years.

Video below!
Quantifying the Local Labor Shortage
By: Sam Bailey, NLEA Graduate Intern

Living in Northern Lower Michigan, we’re familiar with the “Help Wanted” signs that dot the roadside every summer, yet this summer the signs seem to be everywhere. The month of June saw the highest number of local job postings since prior to the COVID-19 pandemic: 580 in Petoskey, 312 in Boyne Falls, 154 in Charlevoix, and 121 in Cheboygan, according to the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Information. Our area is currently unable to meet the demand for workers. National news has highlighted that the United States is in the midst of a nationwide labor shortage, but how does that manifest on the local level? On July 22nd, the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives released their most recent labor data, preliminary employment metrics for June 2021. The numbers show that while our local unemployment rate closely parallels the state's, our labor force has been shrinking for almost 15 years.

A look at the numbers

The articles below [and available on] explore the summer-time labor force for Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, and Emmet Counties from 2000-2021. These June metrics are important for two reasons. First, they are the most recent data to be released. Second, the summer month is also one of the peak months for employment and labor force in our seasonal economy. Every winter, unemployment rates rise and the labor force shrinks due to the loss of seasonal jobs and workers.

Factors that Impact the Workforce

The total labor force across all four counties in June 2021 was 51,584. This is down from 54,618 in 2020 and 55,145 in 2019, but it has been trending downward since its peak of 63,578 in 2005. The shrinking of the regional labor force is paralleled by a shrinking labor force in each county. The regional and county trends are likely driven by a combination of these factors:
  • Individuals exiting the workforce
  • Housing availability (short-term and long-term)
  • Regional population decline (from 109,708 in 2010 to 107,916 in 2019)
  • Population is “greying” (33.26% of population was age 60+ in 2019)
  • COVID-19 pandemic caused workers to exit the workforce
  • Other social phenomena

Regardless of the causes, the declining labor force poses a challenge to the seasonal businesses that drive the tourism industry and the year-round employers.
$900,000 grant awarded. Can I apply?
The USDA Rural Development Business Programs has completed the selection process under its Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Programs for loan and grant applications submitted during the 4th quarter Fiscal Year 2021 application period. Business Programs selected 9 loan applications for funding totaling $5,444,560 million and 5 grant applications totaling $1,315,000 million.

The USDA informed Great Lakes Energy / NLEA they have selected the application for a REDL loan in the amount of $900,000 to finance the construction of a storage and receiving facility by Riley Orchards located in the GLE service area of Oceana County. NLEA provides support and coordination of the Great Lakes Energy Loan Fund.

How do I apply for a loan?

Clients, with the assistance of NLEA are to complete the pre-application and return this paperwork to Harold (Buck) Love, NLEA will then perform a review to see that the pre-application is complete, and the project meets guidelines. The pre-application then goes to the Great Lakes Energy Cooperative, Inc. Board of Directors for consideration of a resolution authorizing full application. This takes place at the regularly scheduled monthly board meeting of the Great Lakes Energy Cooperative, Inc. Board of Directors.

For more information contact
Building the Housing Toolbox – All Hands on Deck
By Yarrow Brown, Executive Director Housing North
Housing North logo
We know that housing is a challenge across Northwest Michigan. It’s been talked about for years but is growing more dire. Now’s the time for action - to be creative and put new tools to work. To improve the housing system, we all need to be part of the solution.

Housing North is part of the Executive Team leading the Housing Michigan Coalition (HMC). It consists of community, business and government organizations working to increase housing supply and affordability. The goal is to enhance the accessibility and affordability of housing which strengthens communities, supports economic and job growth, and improves outcomes for all Michigan families.

Our focus is to drive consensus policy changes and discussions that lead to positive outcomes this year- in 2021. The Coalition introduced a package of proposed legislation in early February. With widespread support from partners and sponsors, five bills were approved by the state Senate and moved on to the state House. The goal is to have local control, flexibility and a focus on workforce housing.

We have tools RIGHT NOW for local governments and other partners to incentivize workforce housing. Read more for a full list.

For more information on programs to ensure quality homes for everyone, please visit the Housing North resources online at or call Steve Schnell, Charlevoix County’s Housing Ready Program Director with Housing North at 231-330-7070 or
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President Biden visited King Orchard during Independence Day. Check out the exclusive news from 9&10 News.
Charlie Moret discusses what kind of companies Invest Michigan funds and how to get the attention of an investor.
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