Data That We Track, July 2019



Communities We Serve


A quick glance at the data says…….

Summer tourism and agriculture have made their way into the numbers of the north.  Most every rural county saw their jobless rates fall in May. The most dramatic being Mackinac County which had a 10% drop.  The exceptions in this northern trend were Houghton, Isabella and Mecosta Counties as the college school year came to a close.  Many of the urban areas saw an increase but most are still hovering in areas very close to full employment.  



How Northern Initiatives Fared


On Track for a Record-Breaking Year


By the end of June, we had closed over $4M in new loans helping 42 businesses.  The dollar volume of closed loans is 56% of our goal for the year and with loans closing in July, we will be above 70% of that goal.  We will be close to exceeding our best year ever!


Q2 Loans Closed by County


Initiate Learning Community Continues to Grow


We have two new subscribers to our Initiate Platform that supports the delivery of technical assistance to loan customers.  In 2018 we started licensing our online customer portal to other Community Development Financial Institutions to boost their technical assistance offerings to their own customers.  This network now includes 8 organizations and is being offered to small businesses in 32 states!  Rural requires innovation sometimes and this is a strong validation.  


Monthly Musings from President, Dennis West


Earlier this month, the W K Kellogg Foundation had a summit for their Mission Driven Investment partners.  The Foundation’s work to help hearts and minds understand racial equity and healing, is positive and relentless.  It was coming from that experience that led me to reflect on underwriting and conclude that for CDFI’s there are 7 C’s of underwriting, the traditional 5; credit, cash, collateral, character and capacity, plus courage and compassion.  Please use this link read the blog, The Seven C’s of Credit.



Money and Know How
Every business owner needs both.



“From an early age, I heard my father and grandfather talk about how important it was to ‘be their own boss.’  They each created good businesses out of nothing except confidence and hard work.  They showed me that being my own boss someday was possible.”

– Brooke Beckman, owner of Polished Nail Boutique




In 2001, single mom Brooke Beckman moved with her toddler to Traverse City from Saginaw to be closer to family.  She’d been a nail technician for a decade through rented space or as an employee in salons and had built a large customer base.  This success continued in Traverse City, but a different dream was percolating.  Read about how Northern Initiatives helped Brooke become her own boss here.  


Supporter Spotlight



Community Foundations are often core change-makers in their local communities and for Northern Initiatives, their support has been integral to our southward expansion.  Here we highlight one of several Community Foundations who support our work to help small businesses start and grow.


The Grand Rapids Community Foundation
Starting in 2017, Northern Initiatives began an intentional expansion to the urban communities of Lower Michigan.  In alignment with this move from rural to urban was an introduction to new and diverse entrepreneurs of color. The Grand Rapids Community Foundation aided Northern Initiatives in this path by giving us the ability to be more inclusive as we provide money and know how to starting and growing businesses.



Reliable Medical Transport is a non-emergency medical transportation service in Grand Rapids.  To meet market demand and support business growth, owner Richard Flowers needed to expand his fleet of vehicles.  The company found some needed help when the Grand Rapids Area Black Business incubator introduced Richard to Northern Initiatives.  With funding from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Northern Initiatives was able to help Richard.  Read more about Richard’s story here.

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