Partnership News and Views

Reflecting on a trip to Cleveland-Cliffs

Amy Clickner

So let’s go back to Feb. 2 when Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. CEO Lourenco Goncalves, challenged our community to show our support for mining in Michigan as he weighs his options to expand operations in Michigan or Minnesota. Let me tell you, while it sounded like an easy task, it kept me up at night for quite some time. How in the world would we be able to show our support and make it impactful? Those jobs and that investment is an economic developer’s dream.

But soon, a plan started to emerge and we went to work to execute it. Online petitions, letters of support, Facebook, resolutions, symbols of the community that could be pulled into a nice package. But what would tie it all together and preserve our message? Why a video, of course!

Before I knew it, WLUC TV6 was on board and we were working on the storyline. Scripts to be written, interviews to be set up, locations to be shot and all in a short period of time, not knowing exactly when we would be called upon to go to Cleveland. My utmost thanks to the team at TV6 for putting together an incredible message and putting up with me! (You can find the video online at www.marquette.org)

As expected, our community stepped up. By the time we had put our presentation together, we had an impressive number of letters, signatures and Facebook messages. The Negaunee and Ishpeming booster clubs donated items. Gwinn provided historical information. The Senate and the House in Lansing passed resolutions of support that were framed and ready to present. Throw in some Donckers chocolates and we had an impressive package to give. The last item needed was something to put everything in. Enter Lakestate Industries, who designed a beautiful wooden crate with Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. burned on one side and “It Started Here” on the other.

I should take a step backward and explain. We have used the theme “It Started Here” for this campaign. Mining started in Marquette County over 170 years ago and we believe it should continue here. You will see this message through the video, including its powerful conclusion.

Fast forward. It was time to plan our trip to Cleveland for May 3. Fortunately, our local Cliffs friends guided us in our preparation so we wouldn’t miss a beat. A small, very grassroots, group made the most sense. Joining Jim and Troy from Cliffs was me, Brett French, UPPCO and community leader; Mark Slown, representing local government; Bryan DeAugustine, representing local school districts; and Rep. Sara Cambensy. We had our message and we were ready.

As I write this, I am still in Cleveland reflecting on our earlier meeting. It couldn’t have gone better. The team represented our region wonderfully and the message of our support was heard “loud and clear.” As in any economic development project, business decisions will drive the final location choice, but we have been heard, we are in the running and we are ready to respond to any next steps. Our community should be proud of all their efforts … they truly made a difference!

How do I say thank you to all who helped us rock Cleveland? For those who signed the petition, wrote letters, passed resolutions … thank you. To Lakeview Elementary School staff and students, you guys were tremendous! What you pulled off with over 650 young people in less than a week was nothing short of amazing! To all who allowed us to interview them and the Iron Industry Museum allowing us to shoot on site, you’re appreciated. For those that sent good vibes and best wishes, we took that with us.

Lastly, to the team who committed to going to Cleveland. I appreciate your time and your talent. Every one of you made a difference and shared your passion for mining in our state. All of us can walk away knowing, our community gave it our Yooper all.

Editor’s NOTE: Amy Clickner is CEO of the Lake Superior Community Partnership. Her twice-monthly column will address topics of interest to the local business community.