Here in Michigan State University Extension, we often seek to work in partnership with other organizations to better serve our clients. The newly created Northwest Michigan Regional Agriculture Business Services Partnership is a great example of reaching out beyond the confines of our organization to bring knowledge to Michigan residents in the northwestern Lower Peninsula.
Spearheaded by MSU Extension partner Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) with support from District 3 coordinator Patrick Cudney, former Greening Michigan Institute (GMI) director Rick Foster and current interim GMI director Dave Ivan, the partnership brings together six different organizations to leverage resources: MSU Extension, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC),the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments (NWMCOG), MSU Product Center Food-Ag-Bio, the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center (MI-SBTDC)and the NLEA. MSU Extension’s efforts to bring these organizations together made the partnership a reality.
The MEDC, MSU Extension and the NWMCOG provide funding for the partnership. The partnership will enhance services to agriculture-related businesses such as product development, marketing, business plans, financing, education and training, and farm production and distribution.
“This partnership continues MSU Extension’s proud history of supporting Michigan’s agriculture industry by helping entrepreneurs develop and commercialize high-value products in the agriculture, natural resources and bio-economy sectors,” said Patrick Cudney, who also serves as NLEA Board member.
Andy Hayes, an MSU Extension GMI economic development educator, who works for MSU Extension within the NLEA partnership as the alliance’s president, played a key role in the partnership’s formation.
“We’re thrilled with this new effort,” said Andy, “In typical northwest Michigan fashion, several organizations combined resources to offer much better services with a far broader reach than any individual organization could have provided on their own.”
In the past, MSU Extension had one person doing this type of work covering four counties. Through the partnership, we now have an agriculture team of three covering 11 counties. The team includes Wendy Wieland, MSU Extension program instructor in the GMI and MSU Product Center innovation counselor; Annie Shetler, MI-SBTDC business consultant; and Susan Cocciarelli, NWMCOG Northwest Michigan Agriculture and Food System Sector Alliance coordinator.
Wendy’s reassignment will allow her full engagement in the partnership. In her role, she helps people who have an idea to take to market to help develop that product. She provides a front door to entrepreneurs who can take advantage of expertise on campus around food safety, packaging and marketing research. She’ll work in coordination with Ms. Shetler and Ms. Cocciarelli to meet agriculture entrepreneurs’ needs across the spectrum of business development, expansion and marketing.
Through collaboration, this new partnership expands our methods and our capacity to reach out to Michigan residents to meet their needs.
View this video on the partnership: