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Partnership News and Views: Ambassadors bring Marquette County’s voice to Lansing leaders

Sarah Lucas

Finding common ground is never easy, and it seems ever more elusive these days: if the headlines are any indication, we can’t even agree to disagree. That being said, our beliefs, values, and hopes are far more nuanced than what the headlines may suggest, and they’re oftentimes the center of the common ground we’re seeking – whether it’s about the economy, our communities, schools, families, or politics in general. These common threads can lead us to the consensus we need to solve issues, locally, regionally, statewide, and nationally – if only we can find them.

Marquette County has a unique and effective tradition that helps us focus on those shared values, and to work with partners locally and statewide towards solutions. The Marquette County Ambassadors, a cross-sector group of leaders from business, local governments, schools, and more, works to discuss regional issues and identify priorities that need to be addressed at the state level. Their conversations build a consensus about what our region needs, and how we can move forward together. This week, they’ll be sharing their ideas for solutions with legislators and state agencies in a virtual, three-day “trip to Lansing” that carries on a tradition spanning over fifty years.

On the Ambassador’s docket for discussion this year are local and regional concerns ranging from safely re-opening of the economy to health care to local government finance to school aid to short-term rentals to Line 5. These are all lynchpins of our regional economy – but they’re all also tied to policy and funding questions outside of our region. Often, the scale and complexity of these issues mean that we lack the revenue, regulatory tools, or authority to solve all of them locally.

This is especially true in rural communities, which have to vie for attention and resources with larger metro areas. Because regions like ours don’t have the power of numbers that other parts of the state may bring to the table, the equitable distribution of funding and the impacts of state programs, for everything from school aid to road repair, is a perennial issue, and one that the Ambassadors have raised regularly with decision-makers over the years. But COVID-19 has added a few layers to the conversations. State and federal COVID-19 relief dollars present opportunities for supporting business and schools that have been waylaid by the pandemic, as well as new programs that may kickstart solutions to issues that we’ve faced for years. As decisions about these programs and dollars are made, and as we look at options for re-opening our businesses and economy, it’s vital for our regional leaders to be at the table, ensuring that our voices are heard.

This advocacy work is most effective when it’s part of a united front – which is exactly what the Ambassadors present to decision-makers. The consensus that they develop and bring to Lansing show that we’re working together to find solutions. And that problem-solving spirit is a message of its own: the Ambassadors aren’t looking for others to solve problems, they’re proactively looking for ways forward, finding common ground, and sharing regional successes that can be models for other parts of Michigan. The LSCP is proud to support that tradition, and to be a part of the successful advocacy work and partnerships the Ambassadors have brought to Lansing over the years.

For more information about the Marquette County Ambassadors, please visit 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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