Data That We Track, January 2020



Communities We Serve


The Census provided the 2019 population estimates and so in the November 2019 dataset below, you can see which counties in our service area are growing and which are losing population. Also updated in the dataset (and compared to 2018 estimates) is median household income (MHI), poverty rates and % with Bachelor’s Degrees.



Michigan’s recovery from the last decade continues, although we lag in population gains – only 1% versus nationally at 6.3%. With a few exceptions rural counties fared less well than some of the urban centers among the communities that we serve.


Here are some other notable happenings:

  • Michigan is gaining ground in terms of MHI at 91% of the national, but lagging behind Wisconsin.
  • The UP no longer has a county at less than 70% of the MHI, which appears to be a first in the time Northern Initiatives has been tracking this data.
  • Seven of the 15 counties are still below 80% MHI, while Region 3, shows 7 of its eleven counties below 80%, and three of our five Wisconsin counties are below 80%.

All of this is continued evidence of the rural versus urban disparity.


Most counties saw their jobless rates continuing to fall, but Michigan went up to 4%. That puts Michigan at 38th in the US, which is an improvement as we were 50th most of the last decade.


How Northern Initiatives Fared


We finished the year making $8.3M in new loans, which exceeded our previous best loan volume year by over $2.5M. The Battle Creek region (Calhoun County) came out on top for the portfolio.



We pushed over the 1,200 loans made threshold, standing at 1,206 at year’s end, with $74M+ loaned. Our portfolio now includes 328 loans that total over $18M.


Monthly Musings from President, Dennis West



Federally Supported Nonprofit Collaboration…..


A project that Northern Initiatives developed with the US Small Business Administration (SBA) was to capture operations and best practices across users of the Microloan and Community Advantage Programs. The result is a series of videos and commentaries from practitioners in the mission-driven lending field including input from CDC Small Business Finance, LiftFund, MoFi, PeopleFund, and Women’s Wisconsin Business Initiative Corporation. These videos can be found on the SBA website.


…..Fuels Innovation


It is a pleasure to share the great work of many of our colleagues around the US. I think sometimes there is a misconception about non-profits – that we live a simpler life and if the important work were being done privately, it would be scalable. However, it is not being done by the private sector (unless you include predatory practices), and so, therefore, it is challenging work. Our successful peers have mastered top-notch business practices and great operating systems. Those who haven’t, just like some of our small business customers, don’t grow.


With these videos, I am very proud of what we produced as teaching tools, but also for highlighting the dedication, and the great work of peers. It is great to be part of a field that, as you can see in the videos, values their work and building relationships with their customers on a path to success.


Supporter Spotlight


Created by Congress in 1953 through the passing of the Small Business Act, the US Small Business Administration (SBA) was established with the primary goal to aid, council, assist and protect the interests of the small business and its owners.


On a Path to Bankability


Northern Initiatives often supports entrepreneurs and small business owners who would otherwise not qualify for traditional financing. From application to loan closing NI supports its customers on a path to bankability. Since 1993, NI has used the SBA Microloan, 7a Community Advantage (CA) and Intermediary Lending Pilot (ILP) programs as tools to build customer intimacy and walk customers up the ladder to prosperity. These programs, coupled with SBA-supported technical assistance, give NI the ability to provide money and know how the business owner needs to build systems and grow their business.


The SBA programs have been vital to our work and customer successes. The State and Washington staff are of great help and support, so we value the relationship and the ability to be their partner in supporting small businesses.
— Dennis West, President, Northern Initiatives


With funding support from the SBA, NI has provided over 440 loans totaling nearly $18 million to small businesses in Michigan and Wisconsin. Collectively these businesses have created or retained over 1400 jobs.


Northern Initiatives helped Rachel and Andrew Brand open Bake Superior Bread in Ironwood. Bundled together, an SBA microloan, a 7a Community Advantage guarantee and complementary technical assistance provided the Brands with working capital, the ability to purchase equipment, and the knowledge needed to get customers through the door.


“This bakery would not have happened if Northern Initiatives didn’t exist. I went to every bank and it was the same story: nice plan, but we’re not giving out any money. One bank turned me on to Northern Initiatives and they were happy with the business plan. They helped us secure a loan for the building and equipment.”
— Andrew Brand, Bake Superior Bread



Are you a nonprofit doing community development work?
The Aspen Institute Needs Your Input!

To better understand the landscape of organizations doing development work in rural America, the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group and the Housing Assistance Council are conducting a survey. The information you share will shine a light on what it takes for you (practitioners) to do what you do. It will also help better tailor the work of our organizations to address current situations, concerns, and opportunities.
Take the survey here.


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


Donate Today!



More News Stories

We're so keen on our Good Jobs Cohort and how much it will help our local economy we want to make it worth your time…
Read More
The halls of Fancher and Mary McGuire elementary schools in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., have just received new vending machines. Book vending machines. Northern Initiatives customer…
Read More
Among the accomplishments we're most proud of in 2022: 67% of the businesses we funded in 2022 were startups. 1,600 entrepreneurs were helped by Initiate.…
Read More