Providing resources for communities and entrepreneurs to create and retain jobs in Antrim, Charlevoix & Cheboygan Counties.

Business Planning Tools

We’ve tried to make the process simple by providing our “best choices” in the following 14 business planning and research categories. All sites are free and have been researched by the MSU Business Library and/or are recommended by the business counseling team. Your local Chamber of Commerce is another excellent source of information.

Business Start-Up Basics

Developing your idea into a viable product or service is the first step towards turning your business vision into reality.  Whether you want to open a manufacturing facility, restaurant, agricultural business, retail outlet or high-tech firm, basic research can help you advance your idea. Here are some valuable resources to help you get started:

Michigan Treasury Online  –  This online service makes it easier than ever to do business in Michigan.

Readiness Assessment Tool  –  The Small Business Association (SBA) offers an interactive program that details the nuts and bolts of launching a business, while helping you define what specific assistance you may need.

Business Start-Up Guides

Entrepreneur Guide – The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth produces another great resource designed to assist entrepreneurs with specific information about each of the different types of business entities that exist under Michigan law.

Entrepreneur Magazine – Entrepreneur magazine offers several guides on the different aspects of starting a business.


Business Plans

A well-structured plan is important for success and presentation to potential funders. Excellent resources to help you get started include:



Financial Planning

Local Lenders Serving Our Region

Traditional Lenders Contact Info
4 Front Credit Union Dave Leusink 800-638-1182
Charlevoix State Bank Mike Hinkle 231-547-4411
Citizens National Bank Doug Damm 888-627-1960
Fifth Third Bank Lori Reichard 989-705-7327
Huntington National Bank Bob Needham 231-922-5622
mBank Cyril Drier 231-838-1041
PNC Bank Joanna Rautio 231-347-1951
Straits Area Federal Credit Union Cindy Harrison 800-337-9598
Non-Traditional Lenders  
Northern Initiatives Chris Wendel 231-409-7889
Northern Shores Loan Fund Tim LaCroix 231-347-6753

Great Lakes Energy Economic Development Loan Program  Great Lakes Energy Economic Development Loan Program is available to provide low-interest and zero-interest loans to promote economic development through job creation in or near rural areas served by Great Lakes Energy. Applicants are required to retain the professional economic development loan services of Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) at their expense for loan application purposes. To learn more about this program contact the NLEA at 231-582-6482 or  Visit the Great Lakes Energy website for more details

Financial projections and worksheets Financial Projection Templates (SCORE):  Numerous Excel templates including balance sheet, profit & loss statement, financial ratio, amortization schedule, and financial diagnostics, Business Specific Financial Projections (SCORE)

Tax Forms and Licensing Michigan Business One-Stop:  Michigan Business Tax and Licensing information  Federal tax information portal for business

Position and Wage Information O*net On-Line:  US Department of Labor-sponsored resource for occupational information

Other Resources

Government Benefits, Grants, and Financial Aid can help you identify grants, loans, financial aid, and other benefits from the U.S. government for which you may be eligible and tell you how and where to apply. When looking for financial assistance, remember that there are differences between grants and loans. You are required to pay back a loan, often with interest. You are not required to pay back a grant, but there are very few grants available to individuals. Most grants are awarded to universities, researchers, cities, states, counties, and non-profit organizations. You can search for these type of grants on

Grants Grant monies are usually not available for new venture businesses, with a few exceptions of high technology businesses. You may find grant information at your local library or online: Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Grants.Gov Additional grant information is available on the SBA’s website: SBA Grants

Other Resources

Market Research

Market research will help you realize your product’s potential in a given market and its prospect for success.  Additionally, information gathered during this process can help you identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; generate, refine, and evaluate marketing actions; monitor marketing performance; and improve your understanding of your industry as a whole.  Useful resources include:

Customer Profiles and Demographics

When you consider becoming a business owner, assessing customer demographics can make or break your efforts. The key is to target customers who will be most receptive to your product, service, and marketing message by researching characteristics like age, location, income, education and more.  Useful tools include:

Business Consulting

Northern Lakes Economic Alliance works closely with our contacts at SCORE and SBDC to connect you with business counseling services. Contact the NLEA at, or by phone at 231-582-6482 for more information.

Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE)

SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) is a great source of free and confidential small business advice to help you build your business—from idea to start-up to success. SCORE is composed of more than 13,000 volunteer working and retired executives, who counsel businesses from 364 chapter offices throughout the country. They share their wisdom and lessons learned in business with aspiring entrepreneurs helping them start, grow and manage their businesses. SCORE volunteers hail from every facet of the business community; some have worked at large corporations; while others have served in our military or worked for the local or federal government; and even more, spending years cultivating their own small businesses. Last year, SCORE stimulated economic growth by helping almost 20,000 entrepreneurs throughout the country launch their businesses. SCORE is a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Association. To learn more about SCORE and their FREE counseling services please contact the NLEA at, or by phone at 231-582-6482, or visit the Tip of the Mitt and Traverse City SCORE Chapter websites:

  • Tip of the Mitt Score: Serving Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, and Otsego Counties To schedule a confidential appointment, please call 231-347-4150
  • Traverse City Score: Serving the Greater Traverse City Area To schedule a confidential appointment, please call 888-796-4913 FREE

Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

The Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC) enhances Michigan’s economic wellbeing by providing counseling, training, and research for new ventures, existing small businesses and advanced technology companies.

With their headquarters at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, 11 regional offices and more than 20 satellite offices, they provide entrepreneurs and business owners with convenient access to counseling and training throughout Michigan.

Visit them at



Competitor Information

Identifying and learning about competitors in small communities can be difficult and may require a great deal of primary research (i.e. talking directly to people in the local business community). The secondary sources listed here are a good place to start:

  • Manta:  Nation-wide registry of businesses searchable by industry and location
  • ThomasNet:  Product sourcing and supplier directory

Industry Analysis

Analyzing key factors relating to your industry is critical.  Whether life cycle, history, or financial performance, an in-depth review of trends can help you operate efficiently, react proactively, and maintain healthy levels of production.  A good resource to help you get started:

  • Economic Census: U.S. Census Bureau’s economic profiler of national and local economies

Local Economic Data

Economic data refers to statistical information that describes an actual state of an economy, past or present.  Most data covers more than one time period and is typically collected from specific sectors or industries.

Trade Associations and Trade Shows

Trade associations are organizations founded and funded by businesses.  They encourage collaboration and standardization within a specific industry and often provide members with opportunities to participate in marketing, networking, education, and in some instances, overhead cost-saving programs, as well as political representation through lobbying on the local, state and national levels.

Trade shows provide an opportunity for buyers and sellers to interact with each other on the same platform. Other benefits can include peer generating new sales leads, enhancing image and visibility in the marketplace, learning about emerging trends and industry developments, peer networking, and recruiting dealers and distributors just to name a few.

Michigan Resources

Michigan is fast becoming one of today’s top contenders in the competitive global marketplace. As a valued partner of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the NLEA can help you connect at all stages, and at all levels of your business development in Northern Michigan.  Excellent resources to help you get started include:

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Sources of Capital

There are many ways to fund the launch and growth of your business, and every approach has its own advantages and restrictions.  The type of financing that is best for your business is dependent on a number of factors including your company’s ownership, business model, financial state, operations, size, stage, industry, geographic reach, and other attributes.  The NLEA can assist in directing you to any of the following resources depending on your needs:


  • USDA:  Not just for Agriculture, the USDA provides a variety of funding opportunities
  • Grants:  Grant monies are usually not available for new venture businesses, with a few exceptions of high technology businesses. You may find grant information at your local library or online:


Tax Forms and Licensing

As a business owner, you need to know your state and federal tax and licensing responsibilities, as complying with these requirements is a necessary aspect of doing business.  Resources that can help include:

For Agricultural Businesses

  • AFSIC:  The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Library
  • ATTRA:  The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service
  • MSU Extension: Michigan State University Extension
  • MDARD: Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
  • USDA/ERS:  The United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service

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