LAKE COUNTY — Despite only meeting once a month, members of the Lake County Economic Development Alliance (LCEDA) work continuously toward promoting business and industry by providing tools to empower businesses.

The LCEDA, a 501c3 organization currently with 10 volunteers serving as board members, is seeking a director. The organization received $25,000 in grant money from the Fremont Area Community Foundation, Lake County Community Foundation and the Frey Foundation to designate a part-time position for a director.

“We hope to have a director in place by October,” said Barb Stenger, president of LCEDA. “We are a group of volunteers working hard for Lake County. At this point, we are looking for a director — a person to be at meetings; work with businesses to retain them; and create more workforce development.”

Currently, the LCEDA works with existing businesses with growth plans and also is trying to attract new businesses, while protecting the environment and natural resources, Stenger added.

“We have a combination of support from local entities such as townships, villages and reach out to organizations such as the chamber of commerce,” said Pat Williams, treasurer. “When we pull resources together, we can accomplish a lot. We have a representative from every corner of the county. It is not a Baldwin or Luther thing, but a Lake County thing. We need all involved.”

The LCEDA works with infrastructure, broadband, electricity, gas lines, Consumers Energy and other utilities to help get businesses off the ground.

“A lot of our work is not really seen by the general public,” Stenger said. “We are working with many businesses for infrastructure. We provide the tools, but we don’t pound the nails. We are helping a business get three-phase electric in Baldwin, and have helped a business in Webber Township with electric. People are working very hard behind the scenes to retain businesses, expand them and bring new business in.”

One of the initiatives of LCEDA is to help provide access to broadband internet.

“Because of our work, we now have broadband in the Luther Library set up with fiber internet,” Stenger added. “We have created an awareness with four different internet providers so we can attract new businesses and promote tourism.”

John Trimerger, secretary, specifically works with broadband for the alliance.

“The LCEDA recognizes the lack of adequate broadband service in Lake County as a hindrance to its economic development and quality of life for its residents,” he said. “Access to internet service has become a necessity in today’s world. At present less than 50 percent of Lake County residents are served by non-mobile or terrestrial internet service.

“The LCEDA has maintained contact and been working with the major internet providers in this area since 2013. They have been reluctant to provide expanded service to Lake County because of our low population, sparse density and hilly and forested terrain leading to a poor return on the investment they would need to make.

“The fiber optic line that transverses the county was finally activated in late 2017. This led to one of the county’s major industries being able to connect to service and the Luther library was able to connect with MERIT, a major provider of services to schools and libraries. We expect other businesses and wireless towers will connect to the line in the future.”

The alliance also identifies grant opportunities for economic growth.

“We are marketing Lake County as a tourist center,” Williams said. “Four years ago we received a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for $50,000 for LEAD, Leaders in Economic Alliance Development. Initiatives are to connect recreation trails in Mason, Newaygo, Oceana and Lake counties, create workforce development and make broadband accessible. Working on the trail system is awesome. People want to travel to one county to another, and this will bring more people to the area.

“We also have pamphlets at rest areas promoting Lake County’s recreational opportunities and also share about our diverse, rich history. We have so much to offer people everywhere with iconic history such as Marlborough, Idlewild and the logging era.”

LCEDA also meets with state elected officials so the state is aware of economic and infrastructure needs in Lake County.

“We encourage people to attend our monthly meetings and get involved,” Stenger said, adding the LCEDA meets at 6:30 p.m. every third Monday of the month at Webber Township Hall.

For more information, check out the organization’s Facebook page, Lake County Economic Development Alliance.

The next LCEDA meeting is Monday, Aug. 20.