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

Northern Lakes Economic Alliance: a merging of efforts

Northern Lakes Economic Alliance  •  231-582-6482  •

The following were comments provided at the NLEA Annual Event by Rick Diebold, chair of NLEA Board of Directors. Rick frames our history and purpose perfectly, and we felt it worth sharing with all of our NLEA stakeholders.

Rick Diebold, chair of NLEA board of directors.

During 2019, the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance will celebrate its 35th year of existence. The NLEA has roots dating back to 1984 when it was initially formed as the Charlevoix County Business & Industry Task Force.

By its second year of existence, Antrim County joined the organization and the name was revised to more closely reflect the group’s mission: The Antrim-Charlevoix Growth Alliance.

By year four, Emmet County joined, and the name evolved into its current title, Northern Lakes Economic Alliance.  By year 23, Cheboygan County recognized the benefits of pooling efforts and leveraging resources and sought to join the NLEA.

Over the years, the collective efforts between NLEA and various partners assisted the growth of hundreds of businesses with development, start-ups, or expansions. The NLEA helped bring in tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure investment and program development. NLEA partnered with many organizations to help businesses grow and create thousands of jobs, which produced further growth and stability for our economy; benefitting our businesses, our communities, our visitors, and our families.

As the NLEA’s concept of economic development expanded to meet increased demands and opportunities, new partnerships have been created and support has been provided for numerous projects across dozens of our municipalities at the village, city, township, and county levels. 

This experiment which kicked off 35 years ago has been highly successful, and the “secret sauce” which holds it all together is embedded right in the title of the organization. I think it’s something we sometimes overlook, but it’s very important to remember; the secret ingredient is that we are an Alliance.

What is an Alliance? It’s a merging of efforts by entities (or people) for a shared interest. A merging of efforts. The founders were very deliberate in their selection of that word, alliance.

Let’s not forget what the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance is (a merging of efforts) and let’s remember what it is not. It’s not a service club. It’s not a chamber of commerce. It’s not a task force trying to solve a problem. The relationship between the NLEA and our municipalities and businesses, whether public or private, is NOT a vendor to customer relationship, but rather it is a relationship of Allies who merge our efforts for a shared interest. The shared interest is community and economic development which makes our region a better place in which to live, to work, and to play.

Hats off to the many public and private sector organizations, companies, local units of government, agencies, and individuals that have agreed to come together, merge our collective efforts and be part of the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance for the betterment of our entire region. As you’ve heard many times before, economic development is a team sport and we have a great team!

Core Partners

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