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The Review Blue Arrows

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In Boyne City, leaders in the community have teamed up to form Team Boyne in order to “create an environment to foster and nurture the entrepreneurial spirit of Boyne City,” according to the group’s statement of purpose. Team Boyne’s activities center around regular meetings, which bring together city officials, downtown organization directors, business owners, and other community leaders who work towards shared goals.

Current Chairman Jim Baumann, who runs the Boyne City Chamber of Commerce, explains, “What I love about this group is that you have the city manager, the school superintendent, the Chamber director, the Main Street director, and key business people all at the same table virtually every month. It’s a good way to informally make sure everybody is on the same page.”

Boyne City participated in Michigan State University Extension’s “Creating Entrepreneurial Communities” (CEC) training program, after a handful of community members attended the CEC 2006 conference. “That’s where it all got started,” says Hugh Conklin, Boyne City’s Main Street manager. “They were looking at how communities can get involved in addressing the realization that business recruiting is changing. It isn’t going to be recruiting manufacturing anymore,” he explains. The guidance they received through the CEC’s training program inspired the formation and development of Team Boyne.
Big manufacturing companies that sustained the area in the past “are either going away or their amount of employees is half of what it was five or ten years ago. Although we would love to have manufacturers come to the community, we realized that in this day and age, that’s more likely to happen elsewhere. We hope to maintain our population and our workforce, by encouraging one entrepreneur at a time, with a hundred baby steps,” says Baumann.

When the group was first getting started, they sent out teams of two to meet with 60 to 70 businesses in the area in order to find out, “where we need to direct our time, energy, and resources,” says Conklin. “We wanted to know what the business community needed, rather than us coming in with a program or an idea that we thought might be beneficial,” he explains. Baumann, who joined Team Boyne last year, says, “As the new guy coming into the community, it was helpful for me to read that survey and see what people wanted and needed.”

Team Boyne is comprised of subcommittees that focus on particular goals, including:

• marketing outreach and communication,

• youth entrepreneurship,

• connecting the community with resources and technology,

• recruitment and retention,

• creating infrastructure, and

• government relations.

According to Conklin, “Team Boyne is currently working on getting those committees to work independently and come back and report their activities on a regular basis,” he explains.

The group has also begun to invite entrepreneurs to their meetings, “just to have a conversation with them and introduce them to the movers and shakers in the community. It doesn’t have to be very complicated. Just getting them together in the same room is a great idea. Other things happen from that. I think that model works well for us,” Baumann said.

Local businessman Mike Lange is in the process of starting a new wood pellets production business in Boyne City—he was laid off last year from auto parts manufacturer Lexamar, where he was a senior manager. He regularly attends Team Boyne meetings, and he attended the CEC training and the last year’s conference. He says Team Boyne has supported him throughout the process, especially by connecting him with the right people who know the answers to his specific questions. For example, transitioning from a large company to starting a small business, “I needed to figure out how to get new money. That was the piece that I needed the most help on,” he says.

Baumann explains that one of the practices that helps him effectively nurture new and developing businesses is directing them to the resources and support organizations in the area that will best serve them at various stages of developing their business. “We don’t have an economic development department in the city, but we encourage people to use resources like the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance,” which sends a member to all of Team Boyne’s meetings. “It is really useful to have them at your fingertips. If someone walks in the door and says, ‘I’m thinking about starting a business,’ then you can point them in the right direction,” he says.

After Lexamar downsized its workforce, putting Lange and almost 100 others out of a job, Team Boyne organized a summit meeting, which featured author and business expert Tony Rubleski as a keynote speaker. The event “offered people encouragement, brought in people who were resources from various places like funding sources and business consultants, and there were some entrepreneurs that came to that event and ended up starting businesses,” says Baumann.

Lange found the summit particularly helpful. “When you go to an event like that, the people from the CEC group, or whoever sponsors it, aren’t the only ones you get to exchange with. I got much more out of the time that I spent with the attendees after Tony was done speaking.” According to Lange, Team Boyne “provides us with the people who want us to succeed, and hands them right to us and says, here you are. Networking is the biggest role that they have played for us.”

A lesson that Team Boyne teaches is the impact of teamwork. Echoing Baumann’s sentiments about keeping everyone “on the same page,” Conklin suggests, “The most important thing is that people work together, and the city needs to be the leader. The Main Street and downtown or DDA-type organization need to work together closely. People need to realize that this is our boat, and the better we paddle it together, the more successful we’re going to be,” he concludes. By utilizing their individual strengths and positions within the community, Team Boyne’s members are working towards a common goal—to promote, develop, and retain an entrepreneurial climate that will sustain the community.

Jennifer Eberbach is a freelance journalist and professional copywriter. You may contact her at 734-929-2964 or jen@jenthewriter.info. Visit her online at www.jenthewriter.info

 

 

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