Looking back, forward with DAEDA

Lois Ellis

IRON MOUNTAIN — Since early 2016, the Dickinson Area Economic Development Alliance has been working to re-imagine economic development in Dickinson County.

A strategic vision was set in 2017 that focuses on workforce attraction and retention, new business and development attraction and the creation of a county-wide marketing program communicating all the benefits of living, working and running a business in Dickinson County.

In support of this strategy, several important milestones were reached:

— Investor commitments for the reorganized and refocused group were secured;

— A new board of directors was named;

JOHN JAMAR, PRESIDENT and CEO of CCI Systems of Iron Mountain, addresses a leadership conference at Bay West College in May. The conference, which included participation from the Dickinson Area Economic Development Alliance, focused on methods for managing and promoting productivity and developing leadership skills.

— A strategic pairing was formed with the Lake Superior Community Partnership, an economic development organization that has been in the Marquette County area for 20 years;

— Lois Ellis was hired as the alliance’s full-time executive director.

Since December 2017, the DAEDA has ramped up its efforts to move forward on a strategic plan. The alliance has four active strategic task force groups empowered to execute the overall strategy of the organization and raise awareness of opportunities in the Dickinson County area. These task forces are:

— Talent and Education;

— Infrastructure and Housing;

— Business Retention and Growth;

— Marketing and Branding.

A fifth task force being formed will address advocacy and government relations.

Each of these strategy task force groups consist of many volunteers and are all working together to create a brighter future for the region. A CEO Roundtable group is also meeting to provide a forum for our largest employers.

The alliance has achieved many early successes through the group’s efforts to re-align the organization, establish relationships with key stakeholders and deliver valuable programs and information to investors and the community.

The alliance has established relationships by:

— Conducting 55 retention and project visits with existing companies;

— Engaging with 19 community partner organizations;

— Encouraging the collaboration of five area municipalities to offer online GIS services;

— Working alongside Bay West on training initiatives and local career awareness;

— Hosting a Meet and Greet event to welcome executive director and update investors;

— Carrying our message to Lansing and the U.P. Delegation, along with other elected officials;

Key steps have been taken to re-align the alliance by:

— Hiring an executive director;

— Completing organization by-laws;

— Launching a new website and logo/brand;

— Revisiting strategic planning with each task force to create work plans for 2018;

— Establishing a confidentiality agreement for the Board of Directors;

— Signing a collaborative service agreement with the Lake Superior Community Partnership.

The alliance has delivered important opportunities and programs by:

— Hosting the first Careers and Cheers event to attract talent, with 35 attendees and one candidate hired;

— Organizing a small business forum with 40 attendees;

— Conducting four strategic sessions with Dickinson County Healthcare System to show support for our local health care;

— Presenting Zoom Prospector, a property database tool to area Realtors;

— Forming the CEO Roundtable as a forum for large employers;

— Hosting the Lake Superior State University president for tours and meetings with area business leaders and educators;

— Sharing the housing study analysis with private developers;

— Launching a four-part, free social media series for businesses;

— Securing more than 100 Loyal to Local participants.

What’s planned for the remainder of 2018? The Talent and Education Task Force is hosting a Human Resources Roundtable, distributing career and lifestyle information at Fourth of July activities, formalizing a communication network for candidate sharing and presenting a useful workforce attraction tool to area human resources professionals.

The Infrastructure and Housing Task Force continues to network with potential housing developers to share the housing study analysis and supporting data. The group also aims to add more useful data to the alliance website.

Our Business Retention and Growth Task Force has recently launched the Loyal to Local campaign and will be carrying out the promotional plan while also organizing two business forums in the second half of the year to address health care options for employers and the upcoming tax reform impacts.

The Marketing and Branding Task Force is preparing to roll out the Brand Ambassador program that will use social media to highlight the successful careers and lifestyles of area residents, showing all that we have to offer. The group also plans to request proposals to create a video series to further promote our area’s value proposition to potential talent and investors.

We are very encouraged by the increased interest and activity evident in the area. One example is the Loyal to Local program that is kicking off, with more than 100 businesses receiving their marketing materials, signs and promotional flags in the past week. Starting Sunday, radio advertisements will begin running and our social media activity will ramp up to highlight the importance of choosing to purchase your goods and services locally. We hope you will join the movement and be Loyal to Local whenever possible.

More information about the Dickinson Area Economic Development Alliance can be found at DAEDA.org.