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When talking to prospective entrepreneurs, or even when meeting new people, I will often ask, “what is your elevator spiel?”

This is a 30-second pitch that you can use to convince a VIP that your project or idea matters and will have an impact.

Regardless of your line of work or your volunteer activities, practicing a short pitch may come in handy and help you appear polished. Even the contemplative act of reflecting upon your ask and how best to succinctly get to the point can provide benefits. Most importantly, clearly communicating what you are working on to others can provide possibilities and avenues that you otherwise may have been unprepared to explore.

While economic development is not a new concept to our area, the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce created my position with a slightly different focus. It is reasonable that there may be questions about the work at the chamber and its potential impact, therefore it is a good idea to make my pitch to you as a community member.

The primary roles for this position are to attract and secure investment funding and to serve as Manistee County’s first point of contact for economic development. This will streamline how to work with the various entities in our area and make the work of investing easier to get started and completed.

There are many needs in our area for investment, and we outlined economic development priorities last fall. The overall priority is economic development, retention, attraction and growth, but our priorities also include new housing developments, workforce expansion, outdoor recreation infrastructure, and growing entrepreneurs and new businesses.

Area businesses, communities, organizations and individuals have laid the groundwork for this economic development work. Most recently, the City of Manistee underwent and invested in Project Rising Tide. There have been other investments in planning and visioning as well, which included the Charter Township of Filer retail market study and county plan to expand recreation and trails.

Now is the time to execute and implement plans. Investing in new studies will not move the needle on attracting investment. For the near term, here are five major projects that I will focus on.

  • Retention visits: Perform retention visits with existing businesses and following up with assistance on potential expansion plans and job creation.
  • Gateway to downtown: Assist a transformational project at the gateway to downtown Manistee. It will encourage people to hit their turn signals.
  • West Shore Community College: A second transformational project will create an educational and economic development asset at 400 River St. in the former Glik’s building. The college will likely invest upward to $5 million in the downtown property.
  • New manufacturing: There are plans for a new manufacturing start-up company for the Manistee area that will generate jobs and a source of pride in our manufacturing history and community. I will continue to provide assistance on the project.
  • Recreational trails: I am using my background and contacts to pursue comprehensive investments in recreational trails. The broader goal is to connect larger trail systems to our area communities.

All of these projects will create an economic impact and assist the area by attracting and retaining jobs, people and opportunity.

And how do you end a pitch? You always end with an ask. Making real progress cannot be done by one person, and here is where you can help. If you know someone who is interested in investing or building in the area, please refer them to me or give me their contact information. If you think you would like to expand an existing business or start a new one and you need assistance to get it going, please give me a call.

Again, my position will serve as their first point of contact for businesses and development.

Finally, we all need to be advocates for the area. Please speak positively about our opportunities to contribute to and help create a great community. The area residents have a long history of rolling up their sleeves and making things happen.

Marc Miller is the economic development director for the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at (231) 723-2575 or