Does your community want to help entrepreneurs?

Annual state-wide entrepreneurship conference can help with new ideas and/or to fine-tune your approach.

Michigan State University Extension recently completed its annual state-wide entrepreneurial conference in Howell, MI. The successful program, called CEC (Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities) is an effort by MSU Extension to assist communities throughout Michigan to have stronger, more vibrant economies that have deep roots and will get stronger over time. The basis is to assist with entrepreneurship growth.

Unlike “the old economy” classified by large companies that make location choices based on the incentive packages available and then leave when the economy turns and a “better offer” is found elsewhere, entrepreneurs tend to start and grow businesses in communities they are already attached to. This method gives entrepreneurs a longer view and helps then weather the storm of a downturn and/or other challenges that may arise in the economy. Since they also see the town as their community, they get involved in activities other than just their company that strengthens the community.

The MSU Extension CEC program was developed ten years ago to assist in helping communities learn about resources and programming available they can utilize back home. It began to help communities become more entrepreneurial friendly (the CEC stood for “creating an entrepreneurial community”). Over time however, as communities have embraced entrepreneurs, the program still provides education on tools and resources, but has morphed into providing opportunities for communities to share best practices and make valuable connections. The CEC now stands for “Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities.

Every October the state-wide conference is held and moves around the state. Conferences have been held in Lansing, Petoskey, Marshall, Houghton/Hancock, Sturgis, East Tawas, Sault Ste. Marie, Port Huron and this year, Howell.

There are several things that make this conference unique. The keynote speakers are local entrepreneurs, not professional speakers flown in from somewhere. This provides a truly authentic message that attendees really relate to. There are also many breakout sessions to choose from. Each year the planning team recruits 25 to 30 experts in topics, tools or resources that attendees can learn from and take back home. And finally, the breakout sessions are embedded in the local town and held in various businesses throughout the downtown area. Attendees walk from wine shop to restaurant to retail and office location to sit in on small sessions. This provides an opportunity to experience the town, meet and network with others and the sessions are more like conversations than typical lectures. Attendees and presenters both love this.

We are excited to announce that Charlevoix will be the host community for the 2018 State-wide CEC Conference. The exact dates are still to be determined, but typically the event happens in early October.

Iff you feel your community is new at this, or experienced, this conference is an excellent use of time. You will come away as others have: excited, energized and loaded with ideas that can be implemented in your own town.

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