The Busiest Week In Alliance History?

On February 12, 2019, hours before Michigan’s 49th Governor Gretchen Whitmer was set to give her first State of the State address, hearty members of the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance braved a treacherous winter drive to Lansing to host the Governor’s executive office staff for lunch before the big speech.

Around 60 members of Governor Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist’s team took part in the 5th annual Staff Appreciation Luncheon on State of the State day in Lansing hosted by the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance.

2019 luncheon group shot
(From L to R) Stacie Bytwork, Manistee Area Chamber; David Miller, Cadillac Area Chamber; Jackie Krawczak, Alpena Area Chamber; Whitney Waara, Traverse City Area Chamber; Sarah Hagen, Charlevoix Area Chamber; Carla Gribbs, DTE Energy; Carlin Smith, Petoskey Area Chamber; (kneeling) Kent Wood, Director of Government Relations

A big thank you to Carla Gribbs, Rodney Cole, and DTE Energy’s government affairs team for helping us to sponsor and support this annual event.

Whitmer at Tentcraft_media scrum_2019
Governor Gretchen Whitmer address the media after speaking with Grand Traverse business leaders at TentCraft in Traverse City.

For partners of the Chamber Alliance, luncheon is an opportunity to meet or reacquaint with members of the Governor and Lt. Governor’s team. For executive office staff, it’s an opportunity to get a good midday meal on a long, stressful day.

This year’s appreciation luncheon was also a time to talk business. As in planning four events in northern Michigan over the coming week. Stops in Marquette, Manistee, Traverse City, and Alpena.

Whitmer_Marquette_speaking LSCP reception 2019
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer addresses attendees at the Lake Superior Community Partnership’s legislative reception before the UP 200 race in Marquette.

Each stop for the Governor meant a different series of challenges, details, logistics, and guests for Chamber staff to work through. Alliance partners are committed to giving their members these opportunities – it’s what being part of the Chamber Alliance is about – and delivered four unique opportunities for businesses and the community to be introduced to and personally hear from Governor Whitmer.  

In Marquette, Whitmer was on hand for events surrounding the annual UP 200 dog sled race.

She was a candidate the last time she was up for the races, and this time brought members of her new administration – including Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist and DEQ Director Liesel Clark.

In Manistee, the Governor toured West Shore Community College’s Career & Technical Education programs and the Nursing & Allied Health Unit, and spoke with students participating in those programs.

Whitmer_Manistee_tech tour 2019
Gov. Whitmer tours the Career and Technical Education program at West Shore Community College in Manistee.

At the end of her visit she addressed college faculty, community leaders, and students about the importance of postsecondary education and closing the skills gap.

She spoke about the goal she set in her State of the State address of increasing the number of Michiganders with postsecondary credentials from 44 percent to 60 percent by 2030.


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Gov. Whitmer address Manistee at West Shore Community College.

At her other northern Michigan stops, the Governor spoke about the workforce demands around the state, and her desire to continue momentum in providing the education and skills necessary for Michigan’s labor force, and her desire to work with Republican legislative leaders to realize her campaign promise to “fix the damn roads.”

She told business leaders at TentCraft in Traverse City that they can expect to see her priorities represented, along with how to fund them, when she releases her first budget proposal on March 5.


While in Lansing together for the State of the State address, Alliance partners were able to meet with northern Michigan lawmakers for the first time together in the new session to start talking about ways to work together to advance our region’s business interests. A key part of that was finding common areas of interest with the new Governor and administration.

Senator Ed McBroom (38th District) gives his thoughts on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State address from the night before at the Alliance’s annual post-address legislative breakfast.

It was a wild week for many associated with the Chamber Alliance. But the week was well worth it. Opportunities like this to be in front of so many state leaders at once and to hear from them and share our solutions for moving regional economies in northern Michigan forward is why the Chamber Alliance was formed, and why we continue to push a collective agenda.

Whitmer_Marquette_w Clickner 2019
(L to R) Amy Clickner, CEO, Lake Superior Community Partnership; Governor Gretchen Whitmer; Mary VanTilburg, LSCP

Thanks again to DTE Energy for sponsoring this year’s annual Executive Staff Appreciation Luncheon


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