Alliance Represents Northern Michigan in Lansing for State of the State

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance was once again well represented in Lansing during Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s 2nd State of the State address on Wednesday, January 29. 

The annual trip – which gives the Alliance a major presence and a voice in Lansing during one of the key events of the legislative year – started by hosting the Governor’s staff to a luncheon and ended with the launch of a rural development coalition which the Alliance has been working for months to build. 


As for the Governor’s speech, it was short by historic standards, clocking in at just over 30 minutes. Chamber Alliance partners noted it was also short on references to rural Michigan’s challenges, however, it certainly reignited the road funding discussion. 

Northern Michigan’s legislative delegation, in post-speech discussions with the Alliance, bristled at the Governor’s accusation that no alternative road funding plans had been submitted to her. The Governor’s team continued to assert that if legislators would not act, the Governor would act within her authority to issue bonds for funding road projects on M-, US, and I- roads across the state.

Indeed, the next day the State Transportation Commission voted unanimously to bond for $3 billion to be put into Michigan’s road system. Legislative leaders again demurred that bonding was simply a financing tool, and the task of finding sustainable revenue to meet the future debt obligation on the bond had yet to be completed. 

The Governor’s calendar is busy for the near future. In addition to the State of the State address, she was invited to give the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on February 4, and is scheduled to kick-start the FY 2020-21 budget negotiations by delivering her recommended executive budget to the legislature on February 6.  


5 Key Impacts In 2019


With the close of 2019, the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance felt it was important to look back and reflect on the key action items and impacts from the past year.

  1. Advanced the development of rural economic development policy and draft legislation. Specifically:
    1. Rural housing payment in lieu of taxes program
    2. Rural business incentive tiers
    3. Rural talent relocation and remote worker tax credit
    4. Employer assisted housing tax credit
  2. Launched the Rural Affairs and Development (RAAD) campaign to create a rural cabinet-level position within the Governor’s administration.
  3. Launched and grew regional coalition to advocate for RAAD and rural development policy. 
  4. Grew the Northern Michigan Policy Conference to over 125 attendees and keynote speakers from across the Midwest. 
  5. Impactful advocacy and public statements defending rural issues and funding during Michigan’s unique and historic 2019-2020 budget standoff.

We are excited to provide more leadership for northern Michigan and rural economic growth in 2020. Onward!

Northern Michigan Policy Conference – Agenda & Keynote Speakers

Northern Michigan Policy Conference

Are you into business policy? Ready to have a regional impact?
Join us for the Chamber Alliance’s 2019 Northern Michigan Policy Conference.

Northern Michigan Policy Conference
December 2, 2019
9:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
NMC Hagerty Center
715 E. Front Street
Traverse City, MI

$30 per person
(includes lunch and networking event)

Special Hotel Room Rate

West Bay Beach Resort
Call: 231-947-3700, press 1 for reservations.
Ask for the “Northern Michigan Policy Conference” Rate

Rate: $85.00 per night plus 11% tax per room, per night.
Rooms at this rate will be available Nov 29-Dec 4.

*Tax-exempt? Please present a tax exemption letter at check-in. The tax-exempt organization will need to be listed on the form of payment. The exemption includes the  6% state sales tax, but not the 5% occupancy tax.

Northern Michigan Policy Conference

**Keynote Speaker Bios

Amy Clickner, CEO, Lake Superior Community Partnership

Welcome from Presenting Sponsor
Doug DeYoung, Community Affairs Manager, Consumers Energy

Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance Update
Kent Wood, Director of Government Relations, Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance

“Promoting a Rural Agenda for Economic Development and Technological Advancement in Michigan”
Jean Hardy, PhC, MIS
University of Michigan

Quick Update
Sarah Hubbard, Acuitas, LLC – “Legislative Update 101”

“The many roles in rural development: from billionaires to non-profits”
Chris Uhl
Executive Director – IFF


Lunch Keynote
“Combatting the Challenges of Rural talent development and attraction”
Christine Quinn
Regional Administrator, US Department of Labor

Quick Update
Rural Partners of Michigan – “A Bridge between leaders and communities to revitalize rural Michigan”

“Move Over Buffalos: Help Your Community Become Growth Obsessed”
Penny Lewandowski
Principal, Change at the Edges

Quick Update
Warren Call, Traverse Connect – “Tracking Regional Growth Metrics”

“A RAAD Concept that can Change the Narrative”
Marty Fittante
CEO, InvestUP


Quick Update
Housing North – “A New Leader in Rural Housing”

Keynote Panel: Developing Quality and Affordable Rural Child Care Options
Dawne Bell
CEO, Early Childhood Investment Corporation


Senator Ken Sikkema
Senior Advisor, Public Sector Consultants
(former Michigan Senate Majority Leader)

*Moderated by Tom Kramer, Anchor, TV 7&4

Recap & Action Plan
Kent Wood, Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance

Hagerty Center, 5:00-7:30pm

**Keynote Speaker Bios

What Is The Northern Michigan Policy Conference?

The Northern Michigan Policy Conference is a regional economic development conference led by the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance – a partnership of Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development Organizations throughout northern Michigan and the upper peninsula.

Now in its second year as a policy conference, the event is designed to leverage diverse strategies to enhance northern Michigan region’s standing as a world-class place for business, residents, visitors, and students of all ages. High-value growth in existing and new businesses, thriving public and private educational institutions, and flourishing communities and downtowns will make Northern Michigan a national model for quality and sustainable rural development.

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance’s “Four Pillars of Rural Prosperity” was created with the participation of numerous business leaders and regional stakeholders. Ultimately, changing state of Michigan policy to be a catalyst for successful rural job and wealth-creation efforts will be the result of a collaborative, unified implementation effort.

The Northern Michigan Policy Conference is designed to be the preeminent way for business and community leaders to have input into solution-oriented ways to address the Four Pillars of Rural Prosperity.


Rural Business Development
Attracting Talent to Rural Areas
Rural and Small City Housing Development
Access to Quality Child Care

Presented by


Presenting Sponsor


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