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November '22 NLEA News

Michigan Business Network
November 23, 2022 11:00 AM

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Back to Normal or New Normal?

By Sam Bailey, NLEA Strategic Initiatives Manager

The year 2022 saw a return to normal for some aspects of the regional economy: the demanding summer season drove thousands of people to enter the workforce and decreased unemployment rates. While the cycles are the same, the magnitude is not.
The 2022 labor force is markedly smaller than before the pandemic; there 2,413 fewer workers in the peak month of July in the NLEA service area. It is unlikely that the labor force will return to its pre-pandemic levels anytime soon due to a combination of factors: an aging population, housing and childcare challenges, fewer young people, COVID causing early retirements, and others.
Northern Lower Michigan needs to begin an earnest discussion around talent attraction and retention to address current and continued labor challenges. To kickstart this conversation, the 2023 Northern Lakes and Economic Symposium will focus on talent attraction and retention.

The year 2022 was supposed to be the year when things got back to normal with many business sectors returning to their pre-COVID operations. But was that the case? It depends how you define normal. In Northern Lower Michigan, businesses were open with little to no COVID restrictions, and the economy saw its traditional summer tourism season which decreased unemployment and pulled individuals into the work force. The regional labor force partially bounced back from 2021 lows, but it is still markedly lower than pre-pandemic levels and will likely remain so.

Residents of Northern Lower Michigan are familiar with the swell of economic activity that happens every summer, and this year was no different. The summer season pulled thousands of workers into the labor force and drove down the monthly unemployment rate. Table 1 reveals that seasonal unemployment fluctuations in 2022 are on par with previous years. Table 1: 2022 Monthly Unemployment Rate

NLEA table- Unemployment Rate 2022 in Northern Michigan

Prior to the pandemic, Antrim, Charlevoix, and Emmet Counties typically fluctuated between eight and five percent unemployment while Cheboygan fluctuates between five and fifteen percent unemployment. It is important to note that many economists argue that between three and six percent unemployment to be full employment and not particularly concerning. This is because there are always some workers who may be temporarily unemployed, as they move from one job to the other or for other reasons. While this cycle is familiar to many residents, it is a key metric to advocate for a twelve-month economy in the region. To improve quality of life and create economic opportunities for locals, more must be done to stabilize the annual fluctuations in unemployment.

In 2022, the combined labor force of Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, and Emmet Counties grew from 46,085 workers in January to 54,319 workers at its peak in July. Figure 1 reveals that much of that growth was concentrated in Emmet County which added 2,773 workers
between January and July.

NLEA Fig 1 - Monthly Labor Force Northern Michigan

In that same time frame, Antrim County added 1,723; Charlevoix County added 1,905; and Cheboygan added 1,833. This growth is routine as high school and college students, local seasonal workers, and transient seasonal workers enter the labor force to meet increased demand.

While the seasonal cycles of 2022 seem to be back to normal, the total number of workers was not. Figure 2 shows the total monthly labor force of Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, and Emmet Counties from 2018 to 2022. It reveals a markedly smaller workforce during and after the pandemic than in years prior.

NLEA Fig 2- Service Area Monthly Labor Force Northern Michigan

Between 2014 and 2019, the regional labor force would routinely rise from approximately 50,000 in January to over 56,000 in July. The light blue line representing 2021 shows an approximately 6.5% reduction in the workforce following the pandemic. While the orange line representing 2022 shows the labor force grew from 2021, it is still below pre-pandemic levels. At its peak in July, the 2022 workforce was still 2,413 workers smaller than in 2018. It is unlikely that the labor force will return to its pre-pandemic levels due to a combination of factors. The pandemic caused many people close to retirement age to retire early due to health concerns and a booming stock market. The region has an aging population which means an increasing number of people are exiting the workforce and there are fewer young people to fill seasonal roles and eventually fully enter the workforce. The local housing market poses a barrier to out-of-area workers looking to move here. Challenges accessing and affording childcare have led to many parents electing to exit the labor force or work part-time to care for their children. This combination of factors points toward a “new normal” like the region experienced this summer, with establishments competing for limited workers, reducing business hours, and struggling when students return to school. A new normal poses a threat to the continued success of local businesses in all sectors, and by extension the overall health of local communities.

Northern Lower Michigan needs to begin an earnest discussion around talent attraction and retention to address current and continued labor challenges. To kickstart this conversation, the 2023 Northern Lakes and Economic Symposium will focus on talent attraction and retention on May 22, 2023 at Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls, MI. Symposium attendees will hear from state officials and experts with a deep understanding of how to attract and retain talent. Through keynote speakers and breakout sessions, attendees will have the opportunity to examine talent challenges through global, community, industry cluster, and business lenses. Stay tuned for details. 

Symposium - Talent Attraction & Retention
Join the Northern Lakes Economics Alliance at the 2023 Economic Symposium and Showcase as we examine talent attraction through global, community, industry cluster, and business lenses. Businesses and communities are confronting the challenge of attracting talent.
In the face of a declining and aging state population, what can the businesses and communities of Northern Lower Michigan do to attract the workforce needed to help our region thrive?
The event will take place Monday, May 22 8:30am to 5:30pm at Boyne Mountain Resort, Boyne Falls. The program has been extended this year to include another session of breakout rooms to explore and more networking time.
Stay tuned as speakers and breakout sessions are announced in the coming months.
Outdoor Economy Surges in Michigan
LANSING, Mich. – The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has released economic data for 2021 exhibiting outdoor recreation’s powerful and positive economic impact on the U.S. economy. The outdoor recreation economy in Michigan grew an impressive 15.4 percent from 2020 to 2021, according to the BEA Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account. This year’s report shows that outdoor recreation creates $10.8 billion in value added for Michigan, and includes nearly 10,000 jobs in a wide range of occupations and skills, including design and manufacturing, retail sales, and hospitality.
This is the largest recorded measure for Michigan since the BEA started calculating the size of the outdoor recreation economy in 2012.
“The outdoor recreation economy is a powerful, unifying force for better health, good jobs and private sector investment all across the country,” said Brad Garmon, Executive Director of the Michigan Outdoor Recreation Industry Office.
Nominate a Small Business
Want to show your support of Michigan small businesses? Nominate a successful, growing company for the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch award!
Michigan Celebrates Small Business recognizes small businesses in all industries whose growth supports Michigan’s economy. Together with our founders, we established a variety of awards to honor the many different ways that small businesses demonstrate excellence across the state.
Awardees are honored May 2, 2023 in Lansing at the Breslin Center. Beyond the Award, small business recipients gain access to resources and growth tools.
The deadline to submit nominations has been extended to November 27th!
Elk Rapids Walks the Talk
The Village of Elk Rapids Downtown Development Authority (DDA), a volunteer
board of 10 rockstars supported by Village staff, recently completed an annual action plan informed by the needs and goals of their community and business stakeholders—needs and goals that the board personally gathered via one-on-one conversations between board members and stakeholders.
Their “go to” the community engagement approach resulted in a robust understanding of community priorities and needs and centered the people who
live, work, play, and learn in Elk Rapids, building relationships between residents,
business owners, and municipal officials.
Seeking Fellow Host Communities
Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM) is seeking municipalities engaged or certified in the Redevelopment Ready Communities (RRC) program to host a Community Development Fellow for a 15-month placement beginning May 2023. Fellows have a proven track record of supporting and advancing their host municipality's community economic development goals. Fellow projects improve organizational capacity, increase local collaboration and remove barriers to development. Fellows have also helped their communities make significant progress on the RRC program, supported efforts to update key planning documents, passed revised zoning ordinances and more. Communities interested in hosting a fellow or learning more should review the Community Development Fellow Host Site Application packet. Applications are due Dec. 7, 2022 at 5 p.m.
Anna Sangster filled the role of Community Development Fellow in the CIty of Cheboygan in 2021. Part of her work was helping the city pursue Redevelopment Ready Communities Certification. She also worked on the appointment policy for Boards and Commissions, a Guide to Development, and supporting the DDA with an application to Michigan State University's Sustainable Built Environment Initiative.
Manthei Family & Businesses Featured in Forbes
The Manthei Group was featured in Forbes magazine. The family runs businesses that include five different business units and is headquartered in Petoskey. Together the businesses support more than 400 employees and bring in over $100 million in annual sales.
“We went to business school and learned that the purpose of business is to maximize shareholder value. However, that definition really misses the point. Maximizing value is a requirement to sustain business. It is like saying the purpose of a human is to breathe. You need to breathe to live, but the purpose of living isn’t breathing, is it? The purpose of business is to apply your faith to helping others, giving back to something bigger than yourself. This is where success and significance intersect.”
- Jake Manthei, President of Aster Brands
Successful Housing Summit
David Emmel – President of the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance presented and served as a panelist at the 2022 Northwest Michigan Housing Summit recently in Traverse City on the topic of the Effect of Housing Circumstances on Economic Development.
Emmel’s presentation highlighted the intersection of housing on talent attraction while also recognizing that the environment today is still being impacted by the 2008 economic downturn and housing crisis.
“While the demand for talent in the state of Michigan is being accelerated by near weekly announcements of new EV productions facilities coming to Michigan, the state is still not producing enough housing to address this new demand and to address the growing demand gap from 2007/2008. Housing will continue to be a long range issue affecting our region driven primarily by the lack of construction labor that left the state following the 2008 housing market collapse. We will need to find ways to bring people back into the workforce to provide the talent our companies need to be sustainable, growing and thriving drivers of our 12 month economy.”
Other highlights from Housing North:
  • Yusuf Dahl shared advice and his inspirational story as our 2022 Keynote speaker. You might have also caught his speech on Interlochen Public Radio. If you haven't, click here! 
  • Here is a link to the Statewide housing plan and the programs. We encourage you to provide feedback through MSHDA on these programs and how they can benefit NW Michigan. 
  • Our Funders Award was presented to Charlevoix County, City of Charlevoix, the City of Boyne City, and the City of East Jordan for being the first county to launch the Housing Ready Program. 
Happy Thanksgiving
Our office will be closed Thursday and Friday November 24 -25 in honor of Thanksgiving holiday. The staff at NLEA thanks all who make our community a thriving place to live, work, and play. You help make our job easier!
Happy thanksgiving from NLEA
Core Partner Corner
Find out what our Core Partners are up to!
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Michigan Business Network is an online broadcasting company that provides knowledge, news, and insights into Michigan’s businesses, industries, and economy.