MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Invest UP, the Upper Peninsula-wide economic development initiative, has a leader. U.P. native Joan Kimball will head the group as its newly appointed Executive Director.
Invest UP is a privately funded economic development group focused on reinvigorating the U.P.’s economy through business attraction and business development, and talent development, recruitment and retention.
Kimball, a Laurium native and a graduate of both Marquette Senior High School and Northern Michigan University, was selected recently as the initiative’s first director. Kimball brings with her more than two decades of global business development experience in both the public and private sectors.
“From the very first, Invest UP’s founders set a goal of attracting world-class talent to lead the organization,” said Robert Mahaney, an Invest UP founding member. “The hiring of Joan fulfills that goal. We are delighted to have a proven professional of her caliber driving the organization’s future. Her wealth of talents, past successes, and international relationships will play a large part in enabling the Upper Peninsula to achieve its full economic potential.”
Kimball graduated from NMU in 1988, earning her BA in French and Spanish. While attending NMU, she helped pioneer the school’s study abroad program studying in both France and Spain. Following her NMU commencement, she parlayed her language skills into what would become a successful career in international business in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa; honing her expertise in business development, strategic partnerships, market expansion, networking, and research through an array of diverse positions with employers ranging from power protection giant Tripp Lite Manufacturing to the Government of Quebec’s Economic Development Team. Kimball has also been on the entrepreneurial side as a partner in a successful beauty industry business in Chicago.
“No matter how far I have traveled in my career, I’ve always had an affinity to the U.P.,” Kimball said. “I am so pleased to be able to contribute my professional experience and knowledge to give back to a place that I credit for the success I’ve enjoyed in my career.”
Kimball anticipates it will take a full year of ground work before Invest UP will begin to make an impact. She will spend her first year creating a strategic plan in concert with Invest UP’s Board of Directors. Much of her time will be spent meeting people and businesses and collaborating with other Economic Development Corporations across the Upper Peninsula while moving the organization toward its goals of attracting business, employee retention, and marketing a positive business image of the Upper Peninsula. She hopes to attract and bring home many of the other U.P. natives and graduates that have taken their talents elsewhere but would have a great interest in returning or contributing back to the growth of the region.
“We have some extraordinary people from the U.P. who’ve gone on to do great things,” Kimball said.
How does she see the work ahead of her?
“It is going to be a multi-year process to start. There is much to do. We are building something new, a UP-wide initiative that will speak to the outside business world in a way that will inspire them to invest in our communities. Invest UP is looking forward to working with local businesses and the organizations representing them across the Upper Peninsula, in a focused and customized approach, one that is tailored to the growth needs and attributes of each region of the Upper Peninsula. We are seeking UP-wide collaboration, sort of a Team UP, where every individual plays a critical role in our success as a whole. The pay-off in the long-term will be well worth our efforts and patience. I see a bright future for the entire Upper Peninsula, one day at a time.”