Data That We Track, September 2019



Communities We Serve


An Unusual Spike


A review of the July numbers gives the impression that something was off. Five of the 78 counties saw a decrease in jobless rates and two remained the same. That means 71 counties saw their jobless rates rise. This, coupled with last months data, does not seem like the usual seasonality boost of summer is evident in a way that you might expect.


A Departure from the Normal?


There are certainly reasons to think that this jobless rate spike is not an aberration. There are weather and export challenges with agriculture, and securing suitable employees has been a challenge in manufacturing and construction. This month’s data has updated information on the percentage of available workforce 18-65 by county. What it shows to us is that some counties should shift from a business attraction strategy to a people attraction strategy.



How Northern Initiatives Fared



Northern Initiatives has officially had our best dollar loaned year ever – and it’s only September. In mid-August, NI Lender Kellie Hoffman closed Ragsdale Home Furnishings of Battle Creek that tipped us to this milestone. Congrats to Kellie and the rest of our lending team for a record year!


Monthly Musings from President, Dennis West


Marquette’s Lower Harbor


Rooting into a New Community


It was about 22 years ago that Kayla and I settled into our lives in Marquette. I have many stories in that first year about the adjustments and surprises associated with winter, but of all notable things, perhaps the most enduring was the “little platoons,” that we discovered in Marquette. I was hard-pressed to find people who weren’t engaged in some remarkable way of advancing their community. There were scout leaders, sports associations, beautification committees, capital campaigns, event committees, churches engaged in ministries, just so many people leading in so many different ways.


Read more about reflections on Marquette here.


Supporter Spotlight


Northern Initiatives staff first met with the Fremont Area Community Foundation (FACF) in 2016 to discuss ways to improve the business ecosystem of Newaygo and surrounding counties.


Conversations turned to support in the form of a PRI and grant to help NI start lending in the area. These conversations were a pioneering effort that led the way for other Community Foundation support in the coming years.

The Pitch North Competition

Also born from FACF funding, was NI’s collaborative partnership with The Right Place and the start of a series of pitch events. Pitch North was designed to spark entrepreneurial change and encourage more small businesses to start in Newaygo, Oceana, and Lake Counties. With continued support from FACF, another Pitch North event will happen in 2020 with a new entrepreneurial series to help connect future small business owners with the necessary resources to get the ball rolling.


The first-place prize of $4,000 was awarded to Tara Kelley of Oceana County for The Bohemian Boutique at the first Pitch North event in May 2019. Tara is pictured here with NI Lender, Melissa Evans (left) and The Right Place Business Development Coordinator, Julie Burrell (right).


“Pitch North provided an opportunity for entrepreneurs living in Newaygo, Oceana and Lake Counties to step outside of their comfort zones and compete for capital in their own communities. We created this event to encourage individuals who, like myself, have chosen to live in rural areas and find themselves with less access to business support of this nature as a result.”
Julie Burrell, The Right Place


Join us today to help another small business start or grow.


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