It hasn’t gotten a lot of attention yet, but there’s an interesting dynamic building within the business communities of Marquette County.
And although both sides in this dynamic are trying to play down any possible conflict, the potential for conflict is certainly there.
I’m talking about the re-emergence of the Greater Ishpeming-Negaunee Chamber of Commerce. A decade ago, the westside business community decided to throw in its lot with Marquette and joined the Lake Superior Community Partnership, a well-financed group that represented and lobbied for all businesses in Marquette County.
The Partnership has certainly done some good and is a very professional outfit, but there are critics, even in Marquette and on the City Commission, who have questioned its effectiveness. Specifically, critics have asked, What new businesses has the Partnership brought to Marquette County? The fact is, not many.
In defense of the Partnership, they have encouraged existing businesses to expand, they’ve extensively promoted the area, and they’ve represented the county in Lansing.
But still, that criticism persists.
And for businesses on the west side of the county, the criticism was even more pointed. They thought they weren’t being well-represented at all, they felt that Marquette got the lion’s share of the Partnership’s attention and resources, they felt a need to strike out on their own again.
Thus, we have the brand new Greater Ishpeming-Negaunee Chamber of Commerce, operating, for now, out of the Ski Hall of Fame. There is still a relationship, however tenuous, between the new Chamber and the Partnership, but it’s strained.
First,there was a dispute over the actual name of the Chamber, another over the Partnership’s phone message that led to ambiguity about who actually represented businesses on the westside. There’s also been resistance by some larger businesses on the westside to join the new Chamber.
And there have allegedly been some snide remarks made by some members of the Partnership about the viabilty and the future of the new Chamber. Most recently, at a comedy revue performed at a Partnership function, a comedy routine mocked the new Chamber. I didn’t see it but I heard that some of the attendees thought it was not in the best of taste.
Still, the new Chamber is growing. Elizabeth Peterson (formerly of Fox UP and TV6) reports that they now have more than 60 members, up from just a handful a month ago, and in the last week or so, they picked up more than a dozen more. Westside businesses are excited to have an organization of their own, one that is explicitly devoted to promoting them.
No, they don’t have much money, certainly nothing close to the Partnership’s funding and salaries. Peterson’s the only paid employee.
But they do have enthusiasm, newness, and sense that they can get things done if they use their limited funds wisely and channel their energies properly.
Here’s hoping they succeed, along with the Partnership. Marquette County needs them both, and it certainly doesn’t need mockery or snide remarks.