Launch Manistee Awarded USDA Grant!

Posted on Aug 23, 2017 in News

Launch Manistee with the fund development help of the Manistee County Community Foundation received a $20,000 United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant to provide a critically important linkage between Manistee County businesses with job openings and high school students. Show (left to right) are Manistee County Community Foundation executive director Laura Heintzelman, Launch Manistee program director Mary Ann Behm, USDA representative Alan Anderson and Alliance for Economic Success consultant Tim Ervin. (Ken Grabowski/News Advocate)

Launch Manistee, with the fund development help of the Manistee County Community Foundation, received a $20,000 United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant to provide a critically important linkage between Manistee County businesses with job openings and high school students. Shown (left to right) are Manistee County Community Foundation executive director Laura Heintzelman, Launch Manistee program director Mary Ann Behm, USDA representative Alan Anderson and Alliance for Economic Success consultant Tim Ervin. (Ken Grabowski/News Advocate)

Launch Manistee which is administered through the Manistee County Community Foundation has played a vital role in supporting area students through a variety of programs that assist them from cradle to career. Due to the role they play in that area, Launch Manistee has stepped forward to accept the challenge of filling that need for employees.

A Rural Business Development Grant application through the United States Department of Agriculture was developed by the MCCF and the Alliance for Economic Success (AES) on behalf of Launch Manistee with the purpose of addressing that problem. The USDA recently announced that Launch Manistee will be receiving a $20,000 grant to provide the link between Manistee County businesses with job openings and high school students.

The grant was presented at the Manistee downtown business The Fillmore on Tuesday morning with many agencies and government officials being present to witness the occasion.

Launch Manistee program director Mary Ann Behm laid out what will be addressed with the grant funds.

“The goals of this new initiative, called Solutions for Businesses, are to educate students about the variety and benefits of Manistee County employer jobs; connect employers with high school job applicants; and provide shadowing and internship opportunities to transition students to the world of work,” said Behm.

Behm said that an Employer Advisory Panel will be formed to develop ways to connect businesses with prospective student employees and to inform students of the wide variety of jobs and careers in Manistee County. The Solutions for Business initiative will be promoted through an annual Career Expo, and Launch Manistee events involving access for students to post-secondary education and training.

AES consultant Tim Ervin emceed the event and told those in attendance that it was a team effort to reach this point.

“It’s often said the best things are those where everybody can take credit,” said Ervin, “There probably is no better example that I know in Manistee County than Launch Manistee. I remember when Laura Heintzelman, the executive director of the Manistee County Community Foundation first began to process to bring everyone together for that common agenda of Launch Manistee. Once that common agenda was built Mary Ann Behm (program director of Launch Manistee) graced our presence.”

Ervin said all of those in attendance have played such an important role in Launch Manistee, which is the most significant economic development going on in Manistee County.

“It has been recognized in boards, tributes, and through the collective work of all you a lot has been accomplished,” said Ervin. “So thank you all for what you have done to support kids and our future for Manistee County.”

Ervin said the need for workers is great. He pointed out in June it was reported that there are construction jobs everywhere, but contractors can’t find people who know how to cut lumber, lay cement blocks and guide a paint brush.

“A recent survey done by the Michigan Manufacturers Group reported that 54 percent of people surveyed felt it was going to get more difficult to find workers,” said Ervin. “What compounds that is the workers in our state are the 10th oldest in the nation.”

Representing the USDA was Alan Anderson of the Traverse City office. He praised the efforts of everyone for making the grant possible for Launch Manistee.

“The credit really goes to the AES, the community foundation and all the local partners,” said Anderson. “We are pleased to be partnering with them and provide funding for these type of projects.”

He added that Launch Manistee has been making a big impact.

“We are delighted to support this special effort to respond to the workforce needs of business by leveraging the success of a program that’s motivating students to seek post secondary options to strengthen their talents and abilities,” Anderson said.

Eric Gustad, Customer Affairs Area Manager for Consumers Energy Company and vice chair of the AES board, also commented on the need for the grant. Gustad pointed out that the worker population between ages 17 and 22 had declined by over 17 percent in the past 10 years causing businesses to operate short staffed and some businesses to close.

“This grant will provide a critically important linkage between Manistee County businesses with job openings and high school students,” he said. “I believe our youth are what are going to make this engine churn for a long time. We need good workers that want to come out of high school and help us. Our company has 50 percent of our employees that are eligible for retirement in the next three to five years.”

Solutions for Business Partners include MCCF and AES as well as the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce, Manistee Intermediate School District, West Shore Community College, Baker College and Northwest Michigan Works.

Shared from Manistee News Advocate & Ken Grabowski on August 22nd, 2017