November 29, 2014

Organization created to promote Northeast Michigan economic development

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NORTHEASTERN MICHIGAN — A plan from one Northeastern Michigan state representative could help increase the influence his home region has in state economic policy discussions and could bring new economic opportunities to an area beleaguered by high unemployment.

State Representative Joel Sheltrown, D- West Branch, has filed paperwork with the state to create Northeast Michigan Future, Inc., a non-profit corporation whose mission will be to consolidate economic development strategies in the Northeastern Lower Peninsula.

“Northeast Michigan has been neglected… by the capitol,” Sheltrown said. “We need to do more.”

Sheltrown’s plan would create an organization that would help to introduce state policy makers to the problems facing Northeastern Michigan, inject the region into discussions regarding state policy changes and development, and ultimately bring jobs and economic development into the region.

“Too many people in Lansing believe in the ‘three-P.’s’ for the north: pure, pristine and poor,” Sheltrown said. “I’m darn tired of the last one.”

The organization created by Sheltrown would attack economic issues faced by the region on multiple fronts.

First, the organization would serve as a resource and information center for organizers looking to hold events in the region to go to for help with organizing, advertising, and potentially funding their events.

For instance, Sheltrown said if an organization were looking to host a music festival in the area, his organization could help promote the event and possibly recruit talent to play.

“I’m a musician,” Sheltrown, who plays his saxophone at numerous area events throughout the year, said. “I have connections.”

Northeast Michigan Future would also connect people and leaders throughout the region in order to promote a united front when supporting or opposing a piece of legislation on the state level, Sheltrown said.

By organizing and unifying the direction of the region, Sheltrown said that it would be easier for him to rally support for legislation that would benefit the area.

“It just won’t be me speaking,” Sheltrown said. “It will be all of us together.”

The organization would also work with already implemented economic development groups in the area, such as local Economic Development Corporations and Economic Development Alliances, to help open up new lines of communication and cooperation.

“We would be able to help them,” Sheltrown said. “We would work with all of the organizations. We can open up a whole new area of cooperation.”

While Sheltrown said that many economic development organizations in the area are “great organizations,” he said they are restricted to only a limited service area.

“We will all work together,” Sheltrown said. “We will all benefit from it.”

The organization would also introduce people to Northeastern Michigan by bringing legislators to the area to experience its lifestyle and recreational opportunities firsthand.

Sheltrown said similar agencies, like Southwest Michigan First, an organization that promotes economic expansion in the Kalamazoo area, provide orientation programs for freshman legislators that allow legislators to eat and sleep in Kalamazoo, and meet Kalamazoo-area leaders, all on the organization’s dime.

Sheltrown said those legislators that have gone through the orientation are more likely to support proposal’s originating from the region because they are more familiar with it.

When Northeast Michigan Future gets off the ground, possibly within the next couple of weeks according to Sheltrown, the organization could bring legislators to the area for activities such as ORVing, snowmobiling or fishing.

Currently, Sheltrown said he is in the process of finding people to sit on the organization’s board, which he will also serve on.

He is also attempting to find funding to make the corporation operational.

“I’m trying to raise whatever I can on my own,” Sheltrown said about financing for the organization. “I don’t want to ask local people for dues until they can physically see the benefits.”

Northeast Michigan Future will include 14 counties ranging from Clare, Gladwin and Arenac, north to Cheboygan and Presque Isle.

Those interested in participating in Northeast Michigan Future can contact Sheltrown at 1-888-347-8103.

“We need people who are able to think larger than their own footprint, and who are active in their own county’s economic development efforts to build relationships that can provide greater leverage with the legislature and state government in bringing jobs to our region,” Sheltrown said.

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