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Partnership News and Views: A strong network in Marquette County

Sarah Lucas

A year into the pandemic, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on some of the many lessons it has taught us, for good or ill – although, frankly, we’re all probably tired of several of those lessons. We’ve all been living them, over and over, for the last year, adapting to new normals and virtual worlds, adjusting our best-laid plans, and finding new ways forward. We’ve learned the true meaning of the word “resilience,” and have come to understand with great certainty that nothing is certain, that the only constant is change, and that our lives, health, jobs, and fates are all inextricably connected.

This last truth is one I’ve seen firsthand, not just over the last year, but over my twenty years of work in community and economic development. Our communities, and our economies, are networks – or ecosystems – of businesses, health care, housing, public services, parks, schools, industry, service providers, infrastructure, and most importantly, the people that make them all go. My experience in Northwest Lower Michigan and the Western U.P. have shown me that when there’s a problem in any one of these elements, we feel it throughout the system: the availability of housing, for instance, affects the workforce and families, which affects business and industry and health care, which affects tax revenue, which affects infrastructure, schools, and services…

And so on.

Successful communities are those that see these linkages and work together to strengthen all parts of the ecosystem, by investing in the infrastructure, environment, services, and people that make a community a desirable place both to live and do business.

As the new CEO of the Lake Superior Community Partnership, it’s clear to me that Marquette County is one such area. While I’m a fairly new resident, I’ve been a visitor and part-time resident here for many years, and have always known it to be a vibrant, thriving, and connected place. Like other new residents and visitors that are flocking here, I can see the evidence of the community’s partnerships and investments everywhere – in its parks, trails, and public spaces; its entrepreneurial environment; the long and thriving tradition of industry; and the quality of its schools and university.

That success comes from the work of many partners that are all pulling in the same direction – towards building the kind of quality place that attracts – and retains – families who love the schools, job opportunities, neighborhoods, trails, beaches, and quality of life; and businesses, investors, and a workforce who see a future filled with opportunity.

Under Amy Clickner’s leadership, the Lake Superior Community Partnership has been a key partner in that work over the last 24 years, helping to coordinate resources, attract investment, and support businesses. Now, as Amy enjoys her retirement, I’m honored and excited about the opportunity to be a part of the organization’s – and Marquette County’s – future in this new, hopefully soon-to-be-post-pandemic, world. Partners like the LSCP are vital to our economic recovery in that new world, providing guidance and support for new resources and programs – including, most recently, more federal funding for businesses and local governments. As we continue to adjust to the changes the pandemic has brought, I look forward to continuing and building on the partnerships already in place, and believe that with an appreciation of the connections between us, we can take advantage of those changes to grow and evolve – in the spirit of resilience the pandemic has taught us.

For more about the LSCP, or information on programs and resources available to businesses – including new federal funding – please visit marquette.org/covid-19/.

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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