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Partnership News and Views: Economic Development Week 2021 in Marquette County

Sarah Lucas

If anyone’s looking for a reason to celebrate this spring, good news: coming up soon, May 9-15, is Economic Development Week.

It’s not a holiday that many have on our calendars, but it is an “official” event marked annually by the International Economic Development Council, to celebrate the impact that local and regional economic development partners have on our communities.

This kind of recognition brings attention to the often-misunderstood enterprise of economic development. While many of us know the term, and some of the policies and practices that it entails, economic development itself is a multi-faceted effort that can be hard to pin down with a simple definition. We know it best when we see it, and we can see it in Marquette County in the work of the Lake Superior Community Partnership and its partner organizations.

Economic development as we know it at the LSCP began with the 1995 closure of the air force base, setting into motion a chain of events, collaborations, and activities ranging from business attraction to legislative advocacy to skilled training programs that have fostered economic growth, better jobs, and a higher quality of life throughout Marquette County.

The LSCP works in all iterations of economic development – supporting and marketing businesses as they grow, assessing market conditions, providing business training, coordinating financing for new business, and working with partners to develop the resources and infrastructure needed for business. And that term “infrastructure” covers a lot of ground – not just roads, sewer, and water systems, but also the amenities that our community and workforce need, like housing, airports, education, and recreation.

When you think about everything that economic development includes, it’s easy to see why there are so many different understandings of what it is – and why there are so many different partners at the economic development table. Because we need a trained workforce, infrastructure, financing, and quality places to live and do business, effective economic development takes collaboration between organizations. In Marquette County, those closely connected activities are supported not just by the LSCP, but by partners like InvestUP, Northern Michigan University, Innovate Marquette SmartZone, CUPPAD, Accelerate UP, Michigan Works!, local governments, and many more organizations that work together towards the region’s economic development goals.

This work is vitally important in today’s environment, with businesses repeatedly forced to turn on a dime throughout the last year – and with a cascade of new funding programs that can be difficult to navigate. As one example, applications are now open for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which will provide funding for restaurants impacted by the pandemic. The LSCP is ready and available to support businesses as they look to access those funds and other resources that have come, or will come, to our businesses and communities as part of federal and state COVID-19 relief programs.

The LSCP and its partners provide more than funding support or procedural assistance: we’re there on the front end, too, as decisions are made at the state level about what our communities need and where funding should be prioritized. And we’re working alongside local governments, to support their efforts to build investment and tax revenue, leverage local and state resources and programs, and create a community we all want to live in.

So, while Economic Development Week might not cause the same excitement as the holiday season or spring break, it’s worth taking a moment to recognize the efforts of our region’s economic development partners in building a resilient economy. You can learn more about economic development through Economic Development Week events and resources – including the launch of a new partnership – on marquette.org.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sarah Lucas is CEO of the Lake Superior Community Partnership. Her twice-monthly column will address topics of interest to the local business community.

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