The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance led the way in advocating for the establishment of the Office of Rural Development (ORD) and is now playing a leading role in ensuring this office has the funding to be as effective as possible.
After the office was established in January, Governor Gretchen Whitmer requested $10M in the state budget to get the office off the ground. The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee then held an introductory hearing on the ORD. Legislators asked questions about the goals and operation of the department, but since no deputy had been appointed, some questions were left unanswered.
In April, Sarah Lucas, the former CEO of the Lake Superior Community Partnership – an NMCA Partner – took the helm at the ORD. Since then, the Alliance has worked closely with Sarah to develop a comprehensive policy framework, office structure, and coalition of supporters. Over less than two months, we have helped answer nearly all questions from lawmakers about how this office will operate.
On June 14, we traveled to Lansing and met with lawmakers from northern Michigan and members of the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. We distributed information related to the ORD while formally asking again for $10M to be included in the state budget to get the office off the ground.
We also discussed SB 682, which enshrines the ORD in state statute, with the bill sponsor Sen. Ed McBroom.
On July 1, the ORD received a $3M investment in the state budget recommendation. The NMCA will continue to work closely with Deputy Director Lucas and MDARD to commence full operation of the office and demonstrate the value of investing in rural economic development. The partnership between MDARD and the Alliance has never been stronger.