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

Featured Speakers Announced: 2024 Northern Lakes Economic Symposium and Showcase

The 2024 Northern Lakes Economic Symposium and Showcase is on Friday, May 17, 2024 at Boyne Mountain Resort! This year’s Symposium will focus on innovation—or the act of introducing new products, methods, and ways of thinking—to build on Northern Michigan’s economic success. Our region boasts a rich history of innovation. We’ve witnessed it across communities and across industries, from agriculture, to manufacturing, healthcare, outdoor recreation, and tourism. Join 300+ Northern Lower Michigan business and community leaders and state and federal officials to answer the question: how can our businesses and communities continue to foster innovation for our region’s success now and into the future?

The NLEA is excited to announce our first featured speaker will be Brian Britton, President and Chief Executive Officer of Kilwins Chocolates Franchise, Inc. Mr. Britton joined Kilwins as President and CEO in July 2023, continuing his lifelong passion for service, hospitality, and “Make More Happy.” Previously, he led over 63,000 students as CEO of National Heritage Academies, a for-profit charter school management organization. Mr. Britton spent fifteen years at The Walt Disney Company, holding various strategy and operations, including Vice President of Global Park Operations and Initiatives and Vice President of Labor Operations and Strategy. Mr. Britton was a President Obama appointee, serving on the Presidential Commission of Election Administration. Named “Top 100 Under 50 Executive Leaders” by Diversity MBA Magazine, he serves on the National Board of Directors for Bethany Christian Services, is a Board Director for National Heritage Academies, and is a Foundation Board Member for the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Mr. Britton served as a Naval Flight Officer and is the recipient of the Navy Commendation Medal. He holds a B.S. in Systems Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

The NLEA is excited to announce our second keynote speaker will be Jacob Manthei, President of Aster Brands. Mr. Manthei has served as President of Aster Brands, a business within the Manthei Group portfolio, since 2016. After growing up immersed in the Manthei family’s entrepreneurial spirit, it was fitting that Jacob Manthei would become a business leader. He describes his family as one that, “values faith, entrepreneurialism and very hard work.” Jacob attended Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business where he graduated summa cum laude. Aster Brands is a sales, marketing, and intellectual property company that manufactures business opportunities for concrete producers globally. Jacob’s extensive travel throughout Aster Brands’ producer network has given him the experience to effectively navigate product rollouts, domestic and international contract negotiations, and given him an eye for new market opportunities and talent development.

Registration for this exciting event is available through May 2, 2024. The NLEA website is the best source for up to date information about the event. If you are interested in securing a sponsorship for this unique, regional event, contact Sam Bailey at

Core Partners

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