Data That We Track, October 2019



Communities We Serve


Summer finally arrived……….


What would have been expected for the summer months finally showed in the August numbers. Every county in our service area showed a decrease in jobless rates as did both Michigan and Wisconsin. Last month’s speculation is all for naught. The sun is rising in the east again.



How Northern Initiatives Fared


We continue to be moving through our best year ever. Loan dollar volume passed our best year ever in August, and we now have 9 partners who are using our Initiate portal. That means that small business owners in 32 states are using the knowledge-building resources to start or grow their business.


Monthly Musings from President, Dennis West



Thin Places


Recently, I heard an NPR story about correspondent Jacki Lyden’s hometown, of Delafield, Wisconsin. She talked about her memories of that place and particularly the Church that was built in 1851. It is a building cut of true oak from tall timbers, so as to avoid knots in the wood. It stands red and majestic on top of a hill. The pastor referred to the Church as a “thin place.” I think that is a very interesting way to think about any church or even government buildings, massive with thick walls, nearly impenetrable.


But to think of a church or government as a thin place says a lot about its connection to its history, its community, and its mission and as the Priest said in the story “a place where God is intimately present, revealed and felt.” A thin place is one where a community of people, perhaps in the case of Northern Initiatives, Board and staff, have taken those thick barriers and stripped them down to be open, inclusive, risk-taking and unafraid of what the future holds.


Read the full blog here.


Supporter Spotlight


The Sustainable Communities Fund (SCF) strives to alleviate poverty by supporting financial, economic, and social inclusion strategies that empower low-income people and strengthen communities.


Impact Investing


In early 2014, SCF was specifically looking for an organization working in rural upper Michigan in which to invest given that a portion of the contributions that capitalized SCF had originated from that region. SCF typically tries to give back to the communities from which its capital comes. Understanding that this rural region was unique and out of SCF’s sphere of expertise, SCF sought recommendations of organizations in that target region focused on small business financing – and were directed to Northern Initiatives.


Partnering to Support Financial, Economic, and Social Inclusion Strategies


An initial investment from the SCF was to Northern Initiatives’ Regional Revolving Loan Fund. That support provided a flexible source of funding to pair with a federal lending program providing loans to businesses like Prime Pasty King in Kingsford and Two Loons Restaurant in Ontonagon.


“The success of Northern Initiatives’ financing programs, technical assistance platform as well as its growth into new regions and increased targeting of underserved populations, inspired the Sustainable Communities Fund to continue support by investing in its important ‘diversity lending’ activities.”
– Kim LaFranchi, COO, Sustainable Communities Fund



In September 2019, SCF renewed its financial commitment to Northern Initiatives in support of diverse small businesses within its new West Michigan territory.


The Grand Alpaca Company


Located in the Grand Rapids area, Grand Alpaca Company is a farm specializing in the production and sale of prized alpaca fiber. Owner Les Meyette (pictured above) needed capital to purchase equipment, including a needle felting machine to process scrap material into a finished product. As a veteran, Les met the “diversity” criteria for the SCF loan fund at Northern Initiatives.


“Northern Initiatives has a sincere appreciation for us and what we do. The resources they offer are priceless and make us feel as though we have an entire team walking right beside us through this journey. We are forever grateful for all they have done to make our dream a reality.”
– Les Meyette, Owner, Grand Alpaca Company.


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

Donate Today!

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