EDAs in U.P. Form True Collaborative

Posted by on August 1, 2017

MARQUETTE — By definition, collaboration is a purposeful relationship in which all parties strategically choose to cooperate in order to achieve shared or overlapping objectives.

The definition of collaboration sounds simple; easy to understand. But in reality, true collaboration takes hard work and time to develop. Forced collaboration, typically from the top down, often doesn’t form a true collaborative, making sustainability difficult. True collaboration, which I like to call organic, is built from the grassroots on a foundation of trust and common goals.

And the latter is exactly what three counties in the Upper Peninsula have been able to achieve as it relates to collaborative economic development.

Earlier this year, the Lake Superior Community Partnership and Baraga County Economic Development Corporation announced a collaboration between the two entities. We didn’t get to this point overnight, but rather by working together on smaller projects over the past two years. By doing so, we found more and more common ground between our two communities. We developed solid relationships with key stakeholders built on trust and mutual respect.

The story is similar with Dickinson Area Economic Development Alliance. With the retirement of their economic development director in 2016, the DAEDA began to review what options they had to achieve their economic development goals. By working together over the last 18 months, the LSCP and DAEDA recently announced the signing of a formal collaborative agreement that will have the LSCP providing economic development services and support to the DAEDA staff and board of directors.

Why work so hard to collaborate, you might ask? Fair question. Regionalizing economic development is certainly not new — in fact, it is the trend across the country. With limited resources, the ever-changing political landscape and the need to be recognized in a global economy, it is wise to leverage the power and resources you have jointly.

Instead of each community creating a full service economic development organization, they are able to contract with the LSCP for the unique services that are required to support their efforts. We aren’t all buying the same software, we aren’t all hiring additional staff, we aren’t all paying for training and certifications but rather taking advantage of those that already exist within the footprint. This allows the bulk of the community’s resources to be devoted to their business retention and expansion program that will generate approximately 80 percent of all new jobs created in a community.

Not only do these collaborations allow us to efficiently and effectively use our resources, they show our investors that we are actively looking for ways to work together across artificial borders for the good of the U.P.’s economy. In this global economy, borders are non-existent. Through technology, people can work from anywhere in many industries. We as a region need to pool our resources and market our assets as a whole.

One thing collaboration is not; It is not losing your identity. Each community continues to have their local economic development organization, local board members, local staff, local brand, etc. We are simply sharing resources and expertise collaboratively to successfully meet our goals and objectives.

This truly is a historic moment in U.P. economic development, and I hope other communities take a moment to consider this as an option. Too long have we been competitors rather than collaborators. The Lake Superior Community Partnership is proud to be working with the DAEDA and BCEDC and looks forward to a long, strong relationship moving forward.

Amy Clickner, CEO, writes a bi-weekly column for the Mining Journal.

Dickinson Area EDA is now accepting board applications.