Having a Say: Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance represents in Lansing

Traverse Connect is a proud member of the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance, which is a coalition of 16 chambers and economic development organizations from the northern Lower Peninsula and U.P.

The Alliance was established based on the premise that many legislative issues impact these regions of the state in similar ways. From Manistee to Alpena and up to Marquette, the Alliance represents more than 7,000 member businesses and advocates for rural-centric business policy primarily at the state level.

The Alliance has been hard at work ensuring rural northern Michigan is represented during the COVID-19 health and economic crises – and now the Alliance is looking to expand its reach. The organization recently added an additional membership level to allow more chambers and economic development organizations the opportunity to drive policy in Lansing.

The new structure allows existing members to more deeply engage in the decision-making process and invites new chambers and EDOs to venture into legislative advocacy. The growth of the Alliance is exciting for all of northern Michigan businesses, because the more chambers and economic development organizations band together, the stronger our voice is in Lansing.

The Alliance’s policy platform focuses on rural business development, attracting talent to rural areas, rural and small city housing development, and access to quality childcare. Like many organizations, the Alliance has shifted gears to focus on addressing the COVID-19 crisis.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the adage “strength in numbers” has proven to be true. The Alliance has served as a relentless advocate for northern Michigan and ensured that our member businesses have access to decision-makers and a seat at the table. Our members gain direct access to state officials, Michigan’s congressional delegation, state House and Senate members, and Governor Whitmer’s administration. The Alliance has co-hosted industry forums on reopening protocols and webinars on the CARES Act, unemployment and more to provide the most up-to-date information. After weeks of advocating for a safe reopening, the Alliance joined Governor Whitmer at her May press conference announcing the reopening of northern Michigan businesses in regions 6 and 8. But we know there is much work to be done.

Now that businesses are acquainted with the new normal, there is a need for legislation that imparts to employers that if they take appropriate steps to follow public health guidelines, they will be protected against needless lawsuits. With the unexpected cost of PPE, businesses should be exempted from the Sales and Use Tax if they have robust COVID-19 safety plans and meet other criteria. Employers should also earn a refundable income tax credit for having a comprehensive COVID-19 safety plan while retaining or growing their payrolls. And of course, businesses and local and state governments are still in need of additional federal dollars.

Not only does the Alliance coalition have the ability to make a more significant impact by working together, but it also allows such organizations access to services they may not be able to afford on their own.

With support from Traverse Connect staff, the Alliance puts on a northern Michigan policy conference to bring forward innovative policy ideas and leave members feeling energized and ready for action. Member organizations also conduct joint trips to Lansing to advocate for business needs together.

With every Alliance member advocating for the same platform, we can amplify the voice of northern Michigan and make a real impact for our businesses. For more information on the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance, visit Facebook or nmichiganbusiness.com.

Warren Call is the president/CEO of Traverse Connect. Kirstie Sieloff, director of government relations for Traverse Connect and the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance, contributed to this column. She brings years of experience in state government to her role, having worked in the Michigan legislative and executive branches.