Alliance Builds its Influence Across Northern Michigan

German aristocrat and statesman Otto von Bismarck is credited with coining the famous 19th century phrase about laws and sausage – how it’s best not to see them being made.

Creating the rules and regulations that govern our daily lives, including those that impact our regional and macro economies, isn’t for the faint of heart. But it is important. With more voices and interests attempting to influence the political process at all levels, the need for focused, relevant and consistent input into those discussions has never been greater.

Our region’s businesses are more fortunate than others in the way they’re represented in the halls of government. The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance continues to build its regional influence, creating tangible and lasting outcomes for businesses and the communities they serve. From a small group of area chambers of commerce that came together several years ago to work together on a handful of issues of collective interest, the Alliance has evolved into a powerful coalition of 16 area chambers and economic development organizations representing nearly 10,000 businesses throughout the region, wielding significant influence with decision makers both in Lansing and Washington, D.C.
The Alliance worked recently to shelve a poorly crafted bill to centralize Michigan’s road salt production in the Detroit area at the expense of both northern Michigan aggregate haulers and taxpayers. It staved off a proposal to limit local communities from offering digital broadband service so desperately needed in many of our rural communities. It’s also building support for a regional sports commission that would unlock millions in existing state funds to advance recreational – and tourism-related infrastructure in our region – and help keep the Red Wings training camp in TC.

But effective legislative advocacy is more than putting out fires and reacting to specific proposals. The Alliance’s wide-ranging legislative agenda for 2018 includes working with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority on comprehensive reforms to state housing regulations to help both the private and public sectors address the region’s crippling workforce housing shortage. The Alliance is also tackling the area’s acute child care crisis, working with industry experts like our own early childhood specialist Mary Manner, lawmakers and regulatory staff to create more and better child care options for Michigan families – and the businesses that employ them. We’re also working to extend and bolster the Clean Michigan Initiative, to continue this effective public policy that promotes both environmental clean-up and economic development.

Effective legislative advocacy is also more than putting words on paper. It’s about forging lasting relationships with the legislators, staffers and regulators – the sausage-makers – who craft and enforce the rules. Leading that effort is our Government Relations Director Kent Wood, an experienced hand in Lansing both as a former legislative aide and respected lobbyist. He’s built strong relationships with Gov. Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and their staffs, our northern Michigan legislative delegation and numerous state agencies including the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and state Department of Environmental Quality. He’s joined by business leaders and chamber professionals from throughout the Alliance footprint to deliver a clear, compelling message on behalf of northern Michigan’s business community.

It’s not easy work. It involves many miles on the road, hours on the phone, late nights and early mornings, and extensive time away from family and friends. It requires persistence and persuasion, compromise and cajoling, patience and practicality. Success is often measured in small increments, and transformative change can take years to accomplish.

But none of it happens without a consistent message, delivered by competent individuals who’ve earned a high level of trust and credibility. Our region’s business sector is fortunate to be represented by an outstanding team of accomplished advocates … a group highly capable of grinding out the sausage. The work of the Alliance matters and merits the support of all businesses, large and small.

Doug Luciani is the CEO of TraverseCONNECT and the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at doug@TraverseCONNECT.org.

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