Organization helps bring needed funds to Lake County 

Property redevelopment part of mission

Lake County commissioners received a report from the LCEDA during it's meeting last week, highlighting the impact the organization has had on businesses in Lake County over the past year. (Star file photo)

Lake County commissioners received a report from the LCEDA during it's meeting last week, highlighting the impact the organization has had on businesses in Lake County over the past year. (Star file photo)

LAKE COUNTY -- In November, the Lake County Board of Commissioners authorized the renewal of their financial commitment to the Lake County Economic Development Alliance and approved a $25,000 annual contribution to the organization.

At the time, commissioners debated whether it was the responsibility of the county to fund the organization, and whether they were getting a significant return on their investment.

Commissioners were presented with an overview of what the organization has achieved over the past year during a meeting last week.

LCEDA is a volunteer, non-profit organization, led by local residents, that takes the lead in keeping businesses in Lake County and helping them grow, supporting the development of obsolete buildings, economic planning and infrastructure development, Jodi Nichols, The Right Place, Inc. business development coordinator for Lake and Oceana counties told the board.

She thanked the board for their continued support and said that she hoped they would find that their investment is worthwhile.

"We want to make sure that everybody is aware that we are working to make Lake County business friendly and growth ready," Nichols said. "That is our goal, and we thank you for helping us support that mission."

One of the highlights of the LCEDA in 2020 was helping local businesses navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns, Nichols said.

"During the last year, we have worked at responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and what it has done to our businesses," Nichols said. "We were able to do a variety of things including helping business owners procure the necessary PPE and cleaning supplies, assisting them with safety plans for re-opening and referring them to needed resources."

In addition, Nichols said, they helped to oversee the small business relief grant and helped business owners navigate the application process.

"Without the local committee from the alliance, those applications would have gone to some anonymous group in Grand Rapids or Lansing," she said. "We were able to review and approve them locally, and work with the Michigan Economic Foundation to match those dollars with local business needs."

Through the LCEDA, over $66,000 was distributed to local businesses to help them with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

"In addition to that, the LCEDA was able to assist several local businesses receive zero-interest loans to help them weather the impact of the pandemic," she said. "That amounted to a total of $100,000 to local businesses."

Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic assistance, some of the more traditional work of the LCEDA in Lake County helped to bring additional dollars to businesses in the area, she said.

"We were able to bring more than $260,000 from the Department of Great Lakes, Energy and Environment to address the environmental issues at the new Dollar General property," Nichols said. "If those environmental issues had not been addressed, that property would never been developed, and we did not have to use any local dollars to do that."

Another project the LCEDA was involved in was assisting a Lake County business to upgrade their electrical system.

"They needed significant electrical upgrades in order to be able to grow their business, and having to come with the $70,000 was threatening their ability to stay here," Nichols said. "We were able to work with them to get the dollars to cover that expense to build that necessary infrastructure. Now they are going to continue to grow and build their business and contribute to the tax base."

The LCEDA also worked with the Baldwin Downtown Development Authority on a project to improve the alleyway behind the downtown businesses, saving them $200,000 on the project.

"This project has been in the works for a while, and in their original discussions they talked about having to move some poles and the cost was going to be astronomical," Nichols said. "We were able to set up meetings with the DDA and Consumers Energy and talk through the project and it was determined there was another way to do that would save costs."

The project is now moving forward and will address the water and sewer infrastructure and the runoff issues, and it will redesign and improve the alleyway, she said.

Another project the LCEDA is working on with a local developer is the redevelopment of an obsolete property on Michigan Avenue in downtown Baldwin.

The LCEDA was instrumental in helping the developer receive MEDC dollars to help fund the redevelopment project, Nichols said.

"This was another property with environmental issues," she said. "Now, with the help of the MEDC dollars, they are taking that space and creating a full service restaurant on the ground floor, with three upper level apartments, which will help fill our need for housing. It is significantly enhancing downtown, adding jobs and adding housing.

"Every community is different and has different needs and goals," Nichols continued. "Our regional collaboration with The Right Place, Inc., gives us access to all kinds of partners, and we can help our local businesses connect with the resources they need."

"I hope that in seeing the COVID-19 dollars and the MEDC assistance dollars, that you are seeing a real return on your investment from the annual commitment to the alliance," she said.


The Right Place also sponsors the "Pitch North Competition," which is now open for applications.

"Last year we had our first Lake County finalist," Nichols said. "The Tiki Hut Market was a $1,500 winner."

"One of the things he said was that just doing the competition and getting the validation that his ideas were good motivated him to continue to grow and invest in the business," Nichols said.

The entrepreneurial competition is in its third year, and is open to residents of Lake, Newaygo and Oceana counties.

If someone has an idea for a business, they can go to and answer a few questions about their business idea and submit an application, Nichols said.

All applications are reviewed, and five finalists are chosen to pitch their ideas live to a panel of judges.

The application deadline is 11:59 p.m., May 10. The final pitch will be conducted virtually from 4 to 5:30 p.m., June 8.

Each finalist will win a cash prize to help with their business start-up or business expansion. The first place winner will receive $4,500; second place, $2,500; third place, $1,500; fourth place, $1,000; and fifth place $500.

For more information, or to submit a pitch, visit