By Carlin Smith, President

Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce


It is always an honor and a bit of a thrill to be in Lansing for the Governor’s Annual State of the State Address.  I’ve attended several times through the Granholm and Snyder administrations and have had the pleasure of watching the speech from the house floor, or the balcony four times.  The capitol building prior to the speech is filled with energy and hosts a collection of the “who’s who” in Michigan politics.


Your Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance is well represented at this event each year.  On the day of the speech, the alliance provides lunch for the staffs of Governor Rick Snyder and Lt. Governor Brian Calley in the Michigan Room of the Romney Building.  We also spend time with our friends in the lobbying firm of Acuitas and network with their clients.  And we attend some of the parties and receptions that accompany the State of the State, including the Governor’s reception where we made some excellent connections with lawmakers and agency directors.


We conclude our trip each year by hosting a breakfast the following morning for the lawmakers and their staff members from throughout the alliance footprint.  This year the breakfast was attended by four of the four senators and five of the ten representatives in the northern Michigan region including our own Senator Wayne Schmidt and Representative Lee Chatfield.  It’s a great chance for us to strengthen relationships with lawmakers, develop relationships with new lawmakers, and to solidify the northern Michigan caucus.


As I write this, I wonder how many of you, our chamber members, are not familiar with the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance.  It’s a source of some of the best work that we do, yet we don’t do a great job of telling our story.  The alliance started in 2004 as the Tri-Chamber Alliance and we can be proud that Petoskey, along with Traverse City and Cadillac, was one of the founding chambers.  At the time, the alliance took three chambers that had been dabbling in government relations work and set out to create a more sophisticated and influential advocacy program.


Fast forward to 2017 and you’ll see the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance is now comprised of nine full chamber partners including:  Manistee, Benzie County, Traverse City, Cadillac, Charlevoix, Petoskey, Gaylord, Alpena, and the Lake Superior Partnership in Marquette County.  We also developed an Associate Partner program to give smaller chambers a chance to participate.  They include:  Boyne Area, East Jordan, Harbor Springs, Cheboygan, and Elk Rapids.  Collectively, the alliance represents more than 6,500 member-businesses in northern Michigan and has made great headway in advancing our agenda and creating greater influence for northern Michigan in Lansing. 


The alliance has a full-time staff member, Kent Wood, who is a registered lobbyist, and works full-time on local, regional, state, and federal issues that impact businesses.  He is also available to help our chamber members navigate through challenges in working with state government.  In 13-years, the alliance has become what we envisioned in the beginning, a sophisticated and influential advocacy program. 


The State of the State?  We were pleased to hear the Governor mention and continue his support for tourism in Michigan.  He also emphasized his intentions to grow Michigan as a leader in Mobility and to continue to strengthen the state’s infrastructure, education system, and our communities as a whole. Some of the key statistics the governor shared in his “Michigan Cheerleading” message included:

·         Nearly 500,000 private sector jobs have been created in Michigan in the last six years (6th in the nation and 1st in the Great Lakes Region)

·         The state’s unemployment rate is 10-points lower than in 2009

·         Michigan ranks #1 in the nation for total manufacturing jobs created

·         75% of U.S. Automotive R & D spending is done in Michigan

·         Michigan ranks #7 in the nation for per-capita personal income growth

·         Home prices in Michigan have increased 44% in the past six years

·         Michigan’s population has grown five years in a row

·         Visitors spent nearly $20 billion in Michigan in 2015


As we begin a new legislature in Michigan and a new year of political wrangling, rest assured, your chamber and its partners in the alliance will continue to follow and advocate for the major issues impacting our region. 


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