Embracing A RAADical Concept For State Government

Image result for rural michigan

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance and InvestUP are teaming up to push a concept they have termed the Rural Affairs and Development Department (RAAD for short) within the state of Michigan.


In December 2018, the New York Times, almost dismissively, authored a News Analysis which asked, “Can Rural America Be Saved?”

That article led University of Michigan Professor Jean Hardy to author an answer to that Analysis that essentially said the Times is asking the wrong question and that their “insistence that no one out there knows how to solve problems of the rural economy is a false and misleading one.”

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance and InvestUP came together with him to try to develop some prospective policy solutions to answer the Times question.

From that, we have come to believe that one policy solution that Michigan can immediately implement is to create a new State Department or cabinet-level position that is charged with looking at how issues impact and advance opportunity for rural Michigan.

By embracing a cabinet-level Department, Michigan has the opportunity to be a progressive leader in addressing the undoubted and unique challenges that rural communities are facing, setting a precedent, as no other state in the Country has embraced such an approach.

That is the very reason we are now asking for support from rural, business, and community interests across the state. We believe that this concept will permit, for the first time, a singular focus on issues, challenges, and opportunities as they relate to the work and interests in rural Michigan.

Some of those challenges are highlighted in the attached White Paper which Professor Hardy authored to promote and advance the discussion on this concept.


Interested? You can support this concept and our coalition’s efforts in the future by:

  1. Signing Our Petition, or
  2. Contacting:

Kent Wood, Alliance Director of Government Relations, kent.wood@traverseconnect.com

Amy Clickner, CEO, Lake Superior Community Partnership, aclickner@marquette.org


Alliance Issues Statement On Whitmer Budget Vetoes

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance released the following statement on the State of Michigan’s Fiscal Year 2019-2020 budget which included 147 vetoes from Governor Whitmer.

Our organization is here to serve the interests of our region, and we are very concerned about the status of the FY 2019-20 budget with the Governor’s vetoes.  

The current budget harms our Four Pillars for Rural Prosperity agenda in many ways:

  1. Rural Business Development
  • Restore Pure Michigan funding to FY 2018-19 levels – the efforts of the tourism industry are vital to the economy across northern Michigan.
  • Restore funding for Going Pro training program – this program has proved highly effective for training much needed talent in rural areas.
  • Business Attraction and Community Development funds – these serve as the core business attraction and development funding used by rural communities.
  1. Attracting Talent to Rural Areas
  • Fully restore funding for rural healthcare – rural healthcare professionals and facilities face enough challenges already, and this would be a further blow to the health and welfare of northern Michigan families.
  • Restore funding for northern Michigan schools – whether it’s critical funding for small and isolated schools, or new programs to assist with non-traditional learners, a cutting edge rural education system is paramount for educating the next generation of leaders for our region, and for attracting working-age families. 

These priorities are serious issues for northern Michigan, and we are disappointed to see them used as bargaining chips for budget negotiations.

We urge our legislative leaders to go back to the drawing board to find an agreement that will fund these critical rural programs – all of which were included in either the FY 2019-20 Executive Budget proposal, and the legislative budgets passed at the end of September.”

Questions can be directed to Kent Wood, Director of Government Relations at kentw@tcchamber.org.

Budget Includes Alliance STEM Requests

In the spring we discovered that grant funding for robotics teams has been pulled from the Michigan House version of the School Aid Budget and issued a call to action.

Our ask was to support the Senate version of Section 99h of the School Aid budget. WE SUCCEDED!

On September 24, 2019, the Michigan House and Senate passed a budget compromise that included language and funding for a number of competitive robotics programs used throughout northern Michigan.

Last year, Chambers were successful in seeking changes to Section 99h of the 2018-2019 School Aid Fund budget allowed for both FIRST and VEX competitive robotics programs to be eligible for state robotics grants. In addition, legislators boosted the eligible statewide grant pool to $4 million for both VEX and FIRST Robotics programs.

These small but significant changes led to explosive growth in both the number of new teams and competitions in over 450 school districts around the state.  That meant: more districts, more students, more excitement, and more STEM.

What’s even more exciting is that nearly half of that growth came from students and school districts in northern Michigan.

Some of the rough growth numbers from last year’s budget:

  • Approximately 120 new VEX teams across Michigan (45% increase),
  • 700 new students participating across the state,
  • 50% increase in number of VEX teams in northern Michigan, especially in rural school districts,
  • Nearly 15% growth in the number of VEX competitions, which means more opportunities for students to compete and hone their new skills,
  • Significant grant increase for FIRST Robotics, which continues to grow statewide, including hosting the FIRST Robotics National Championship in Detroit in 2019.

This is another budget win for northern Michigan. Thanks are in order for Senator Wayne Schmidt and Representative Aaron Miller – both chairs of the School Aid budget – for their work on finding a compromise on the language and funding to keep STEM activities moving forward in northern Michigan.

%d bloggers like this: