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Congratulations to Showcase winners!
The Northern Lakes Economic Alliance held its Annual Showcase virtually on May 21, 2021. The event recognizes businesses and organizations that help fulfill the NLEA mission to help communities retain and create quality jobs in Antrim, Charlevoix, and Cheboygan Counties. We honored the winners at our virtual event and will soon be recognizing them in person. Stay tuned for videos!

NLEA is proud to announce these award recipients:
  • Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Rick Diebold
  • Eric Grandstaff
  • Guts & Grit Award (formally Maniac of the Year)
  • Nancy Lindsay, Citizens National Bank
  • Project of the Year
  • Truestream, a subsidiary of Great Lakes Energy
  • Honorable mentions
  • Boyne City
  • City of Charlevoix
  • City of Cheboygan
NLEA Showcase winners
Thank you to our sponsors DTE Energy and Consumers Energy. And a huge thank you to our Board of Directors as well as all who attended and continue to support NLEA!
NLEA Annual Report 2020
NLEA 2020 report thumbnail
Each year the NLEA summarizes activity we've been involved with and integral in. Needless to say 2020 was quite the year! As NLEA President David Emmel notes, "The pandemic has challenged our regional and local economy in ways we do not yet fully understand but will. Our communities are evolving to meet their unique and collective challenges."

The full report is available online. Here are a few of the highlights:
  • Currently assisting with 34 business projects that will result in over $51 million in investment, 433 anticipated new jobs, and 363 anticipated jobs retained.
  • Updated and maintained 26 shovel ready sites into state attraction data-base and responded to 6 statewide site requests that our sites met the initial criteria.
  • Currently assisting with 22 community projects that will result in over $13 million in investment.
Meet Sam Bailey - NLEA Summer Intern
Sam Bailey NLEA Intern
"Hello! My name is Sam Bailey and I am excited to be serving as the NLEA/DTE Foundation Graduate Intern because it offers an opportunity to have a positive impact in Northern Lower Michigan. I was born and raised in the area, graduating from Harbor Springs High School in 2017. After high school, I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota where I graduated with a double major in Political Science and Economics and a concentration in International Relations. I am excited to put my knowledge and experience to work for the NLEA, growing our data capabilities in order to better understand our local economy, support businesses, and inform policymakers. Thank you to the DTE Energy Foundation for its support of the NLEA which allows me to have this amazing opportunity."

The DTE Energy Foundation provides funding for our NLEA Summer Internship program each year. This program enables the NLEA to provide a “real world” opportunity for area college students to work on a meaningful project that benefits the region. The students’ skill sets and courses of study are matched to the project to give them experience working in their field. Sam's project is will be researching our local economy, businesses and general information to give us a better idea of the business climate
$47,000 awarded to Antrim County businesses
A total of $47,000 has been awarded to 13 small businesses in Antrim County through the Regional Resiliency Program (RRP). The RRP began in 2020 with a $200,000 seed grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation to Venture North Funding and Development to help businesses with nine employees or less recover from the COVID‐19 pandemic in the ten‐county region. Another $200,000 was award by Consumers Energy Foundation along with other donations for the 2021 program.

“We ended up making grants to a diverse group of businesses which was great,” said Louise Wenzel, Chair of the
Bellaire Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “It included nine women owned business and one owned by a military veteran; and ranged from a yoga studio to lodging to restaurants, health and wellness centers and much more. It reflects the fact that small businesses are the anchors of most of the communities in Antrim County. We also want to encourage potential donors to the program to consider a gift so we can reach even more of the applications that were received.”
Women in Ag: Taking a Seat at the Table
woman agriculture
Women Shaping Agriculture hosted an online forum on March 31, 2021 in honor of International Women’s History Month, titled “Women in Agriculture: Taking a seat at the table with confidence.” The event, co-sponsored by GreenStone Farm Credit Services, featured Nichole Wilcox of GreenStone Farm Credit Services as the keynote speaker and a panel of three prominent women in Michigan agriculture, including Laura Braun, Jennifer Lewis, and Amy Martin. The event was organized by MSU Extension.

In Nichole Wilcox’s keynote address, she gave multiple calls to action including, “Females tend to underestimate themselves. Don’t wait until you feel competent to start putting yourself out there. The courage comes from taking risks and changing your behavior first and then just allowing that confidence to build over time.”
Consumers Energy receives high nod for diversity
Forbes Names Consumers Energy as No. 1 Utility Company for Workplace Diversity in U.S.
Second Overall in Michigan; Also Top Workplace for Women in 2020

JACKSON, Mich., April 27, 2021 – Forbes has named Consumers Energy as the top utility company in the country and second overall in Michigan in its latest ranking of “America’s Best Employers for Diversity,” recognizing Consumers Energy’s major effort to be a leading company for diversity, equity and inclusion.
Consumers Energy was ranked No. 22 in the nation overall in the ranking, based on a survey of 50,000 Americans working for businesses with at least 1,000 employees.

“We boldly and unapologetically stand for a diverse, inclusive workplace where everyone’s ideas and contributions are heard and valued, and where everyone feels they belong,” said Angela Thompkins, Consumers Energy’s vice president and chief diversity officer.

Consumers Energy has embedded DE&I into all aspects of its workplace culture, encouraging discussions and efforts to build understanding among its 8,500 employees. Consumers Energy was also named the No. 1 workplace for women in the energy sector last year.
City of Charlevoix establishes first housing conservancy
By Yarrow Brown, Executive Director for Housing North
Housing North has launched a new program to preserve and expand year-round housing opportunities - and has implemented its first project in the program, in partnership with the City of Charlevoix and local funders. In Charlevoix, workers struggle to find year-round housing, and as a result, businesses then struggle to find workers. Housing North and the City of Charlevoix have been exploring new tools to meet this need by providing for a local “housing conservancy” program here. The new program provides funding for people to voluntarily record a deed restriction on an existing or newly purchased residential property that will permanently assure long-term resident housing.

The program had its first application in April 2020, with the rezoning and purchase of a former church in the City of Charlevoix. A local donor provided funds to the program through the Charlevoix Community Foundation, enabling Housing North to purchase a deed restriction as part of the real estate transaction. As the first property in the program, with the opportunity for two additional units to be added to the property, the project demonstrates the potential for the program to incentivize the creation of new long-term housing units.

Housing North will look to work with the City of Charlevoix and other communities to expand the program to meet diverse housing needs specific to each community, using this and, potentially, additional emerging conservancy-based models.

For more information on this program and other 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
Manufacturing Tech trainings available
Computer Menu
For more than 30 years Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has been helping small to mid-size organizations and their staff achieve excellence in their fields. By providing them with personalized services and skills training, we have been able to watch them grow exponentially over the years.

The Northern Lower Office of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center is pleased to announce its series of open enrollment classes for 2021. Most of these classes meet the requirements for the Going Pro Talent Fund. Click below for the September offerings.
Videos you will want to share
We like to motivate and educate with these videos, so good you'll pass them on! If you have one or see something inspirational, send it our way. We like to share!
A Conversation on Igniting Equitable Economic Growth in Michigan with MEDC and Invest Detroit.
Scroll down in the link for the 2nd video to see what is behind this wall at downtown Cheboygan.
COVID-19 Helpful Resources
We encourage you to contact and visit the websites of your local Chambers of Commerce, Downtown Development Authorities (DDAs), and Main Street organizations for the most updated information pertaining to your community.
Core Partner Corner
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