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Looking forward to the future

Partnership News & Views

January 3, 2011
The Mining Journal

"If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself."

-Henry Ford

Sometimes I have a hard time shutting my mind off and lately it has been one of those times. With everything our state and local communities are currently facing, whether it is budget cuts for critical services or abnormally high unemployment, one thing is for sure, we continue to push through a period unfamiliar to most, one that is being dubbed the "new normal."

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When I think back to even my parent's generation, much has changed. Gone is the U.S. Air Force base. Gone are the days were you were hired into a company right out of school and retired from that same employer. Gone is the enormity the automobile industry once was,. Gone is the longevity of our state legislators (i.e. Dominic Jacobetti) and gone are the abundant resources that allowed many organizations and municipalities to "go it alone."

What remains - and is perhaps even stronger - is how our community and the Upper Peninsula overcomes challenges. We must be innovative in our solutions and see beyond artificial boundaries for the betterment of the larger community. We already are resilient and resourceful. Our work ethic is still as strong as ever, and our pride in the natural playground we call home transcends anything I have ever witnessed.

Because of this, our trend toward being a place where you can "live, work and play" will continue to attract and bring back young people to Marquette County. Employees and entrepreneurs today are searching for the location where they want to live, and then finding or creating employment there.

The current infrastructure in Marquette County can easily accommodate 5,000 to 10,000 additional residents with little to no changes. We actually were once at such a population level prior to the base closure.

With that in mind, let's suppose that in the next 10 years we see significant increases in population, along with considerable gains in five major growth sectors: mineral extraction and processing, health care, education, aviation related and small business. Then, development of the necessary workforce (including replacing the retiring baby boomers) becomes a huge priority. Would we have enough workers in the region to meet the demands of our employers or would we need to import a portion of them?

Imagine our area's employment increasing by 3,600 jobs, or 10 percent of our current labor force. We would expect to see an increase in Marquette County's Gross Domestic Product, per capita income to rise, higher K-16 student enrollment and more energy used from advanced alternative sources.

As our base sectors continue to grow and our quality of life exceeds expectations, innovation and entrepreneurshipwill thrive. Small business growth will continue to be an important part of our economic diversity.

Regionalism and collaborative partnerships are fundamental to our ongoing success, with limited resources becoming more scarce. Examples of such leadership are Superior Health Partners, the new partnership between Bell Hospital and Marquette General Health System and the collaboration of the cities of Ishpeming and Negaunee on their sewer system. These types of strategic alliances will play a key role in our future growth in all sectors.

Can you visualize this journey to 2020 and our "new normal" here in Marquette County?

Just as the quote above from Henry Ford reminds us, it is the forward focused who reap the rewards of success. Now is it time for our community to look forward?

Editor's note: Amy Clickner is CEO?of the Lake Superior Community Partnership. Her weekly column will address topics of interest to the local business community.



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