Large UP businesses look to increase population, boost economy

InvestUP held its CEO Summit Thursday at the Northern Center to discuss how to do so.
Panel speakers address the audience at Thursday's InvestUP CEO Summit.
Panel speakers address the audience at Thursday's InvestUP CEO Summit.(WLUC)
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 7:43 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Large businesses from Upper Michigan are looking to boost the economy.

Speakers at Thursday’s U.P. CEO Summit want to bring more people to the area permanently. InvestUP said this could improve Upper Michigan’s economy.

“As we heard here today there are certainly some challenges, but there’s even greater reason to be optimistic,” CEO Marty Fittante said.

Fittante said record tourist numbers prove the U.P. is a desirable place to visit. The problem is getting people to live there permanently.

He added that one solution to bring in more residents is to retain graduates from Upper Michigan’s community colleges and universities.

“We are losing population in the Upper Peninsula,” Fittante said. “We have 21,000 higher education students across the Upper Peninsula and we have got to figure out a way to transition those kids from being students, to living locally.”

InvestUP Board Member Bob Mahaney said retaining a fraction of these graduates would create a larger, more skilled labor force. Mahaney explained how this could work.

“I think the most effective way to do that is to build stronger and permanent bridges between our higher education institutes and the private sector,” Mahaney said.

This includes U.P. universities offering internships at U.P. companies. Ones that turn into full-time jobs.

“Their job is to take that internship and when that intern graduates and walks across the stage with a diploma there should be a job waiting for them in the U.P.,” Mahaney said.

Michigan Tech University President Rick Koubek said giving graduates opportunities to start businesses could also help.

“Our students who come to the U.P. are a little more entrepreneurial to begin with and so I think part of our responsibility is to grow those opportunities,” Koubek said.

InvestUP said all of the issues brought up at Thursday’s summit are fixable, but in order to fix them, the non-profit said it needs all of its member businesses to work together to make the U.P. somewhere college graduates want to stay and outsiders want to move.

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