Efforts undertaken by Economic Development Organizations in Northwest Lower Michigan are underway that provide opportunities for support of economic development efforts. These efforts can be classified in three primary categories:

1. Data and supporting information that direct and focus efforts by identifying trends and benchmarked success in specific sectors.

2. Inventorying of properties, corridors and infrastructure that can be marketed as development areas and opportunities.

3. Marketing Platforms that share information in a single location to perspective job seekers, employers and developers.


To identify communities within Northwest Michigan that are prepared for new development, a community asset inventory was conducted by Networks Northwest in 2010 in conjunction with the Growth and Investment Network. The survey collected responses from cities, incorporated and unincorporated villages, townships, and planned growth areas in Northwest Michigan. Survey results were used to develop criteria for selecting areas from the region that were best positioned to accommodate future growth patterns anticipated for Northwest Michigan over the next 25 years. While many assets are needed for new growth and investment, there are five essential criteria common to communities throughout the nation that support growth and investment potential. These five criteria were used in the selection of areas for additional analysis regarding growth and investment readiness, trends, and capabilities:

  • Operational municipal water system
  • Operational municipal sewer system
  • Adopted mater plan that recommends a defined higher density downtown core for development and investment
  • Zoning ordinance that codifies higher density development in the downtown core
  • Available governmental officials and staff to create effective growth- and investment-oriented policies and efficiently process requests and permits


Created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, are a federal economic development tool focused on improving the outcomes of communities across the country, especially in areas that have suffered from disinvestment over many years. Opportunity Zones are designated low-income census tracts where tax incentives are available to groups or individuals who invest in an Opportunity Fund and hold their capital gains in Opportunity Zone-related assets or property. There are Opportunity Zones in eight of the ten counties in the northwest region of Michigan. By investing in Opportunity Zones,

investors stand to gain a temporary deferral on their capital gains taxes if they hold their investments for at least five years and a permanent exclusion from a tax on capital gains from the Opportunity Zones investments if the investments are held for ten years. For more information on Opportunity Zones go to

There are eight opportunity zones located within our Northwest Michigan region. The opportunity zones are currently each being included in a marketing packet that once assembled will outline the availability of development incentives for their specific geographic areas. Of importance to note, is the necessity to establish an Opportunity Fund. The Opportunity Fund once established sets the stage for use of these opportunity zones.


An update of the 2014 corridor inventory for the 31 communities that have sewer, water, broadband, zoning and planning staff. The finished product will rank the 31 areas according to State, Regional or local significance. The update will include a redesign of the materials that will be incorporated into other aspects of the overall economic development support structure.


Through the 2020 MEDC Innovation Grant, Networks Northwest conducted a comprehensive region- wide site inventory and initial readiness assessment of all sites greater than ten acres with water, sewer, broadband and zoning infrastructure in the region. The results uncovered thirty-two “business friendly” parcels with ten acres or more, commercial or industrial zoning, municipal water and sewer and broadband speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 2Mbps upload. Parcels are located in Wexford, Manistee, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Emmet, Charlevoix and Antrim counties with an average acreage of twenty acres per parcel.


StateBook provides trusted, sourced data to improve location analysis. The data allows you to compare locations to identify the most strategic opportunities for investment, confirm project viability, and mitigate risk across disparate data sources, multiple geography levels and over time. A contract has been established with StateBook through Networks Northwest for the development of a data API, which will directly integrate the navigable and customizable user interface into the Networks Northwest website. End users have been familiar with existing data API platforms that have been in use with the our website for years. The newly integrated data API from StateBook will now expand the types of data available. It will:

  • Allow for customizable data for specific geographies and time-frames.
  • Allow the end user to place multiple types of data and time-frames in graphs, tables, charts and maps.
  • Allow the end user to download the raw data or any of the representative data figures (i.e. graphs, tables, charts, maps).
  • Allow Networks Northwest to benchmark the data series against other data series and years directly on the website.



With 190 incorporated political jurisdictions in our region, it can be difficult to obtain the appropriate local government contact, locate a website or form or navigate a development approval process. In response to these difficulties Networks Northwest developed Zoning & Permitting Guides. Originally developed in 2012, the guides undergo period updates to ensure the information within them is current and relevant. The guides provide points of contact for Federal, State and Local entities which may have some aspect of approval or permitting for a development process, while also providing web-links to websites, regulatory & policy documents as well as forms. The guides also provide a flow chart for standard approval processes in order to display likely necessary steps for approval. The latest Zoning and Permitting Guides were updated during the first quarter of 2021.


THRIVE NORTH WEBSITE was created to be an easy-to-use resource catering to those interested in economic development in Northwest Lower Michigan. The website contains everything from community and regional economic data, growth and investment information, knowledge of Economic Development Administration (EDA) programs, to help with a local planning commission permitting process. The website is streamlined for use by active real estate investors, developers, business owners and entrepreneurs. serves the ten-county region of Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Manistee, Missaukee and Wexford counties.