New business development effort a positive step

A new organization that is s aimed at facilitating business development in Marquette and Baraga counties seems to be a step in the right direction. A page one story written by Journal Staff Writer Kyle Whitney in Sunday’s Mining Journal provided details.

Unlike many business development models, Accelerate U.P. isn’t going out to find clients, said organization spokesman Eric Johnson. Instead, the organization will work to develop ideas into viable businesses that residents bring to them. Helping entrepreneurs to find funding sources and consulting services are chief among Accelerate U.P. goals.

Sunday’s story details that the organization uses a model created by Ernesto Sirolli, internationally known for his work in sustainable development. Sirolli, who supports a grassroots approach to local economic and community development, employs a method called Enterprise Facilitation, which focuses on helping prospective entrepreneurs as they learn to help themselves.

Once people with ideas are identified, assistance is provided by Accelerate U.P.’s Resource Board, a group of dozens of local volunteers working behind the scenes to support budding entrepreneurs. The members of the board have all signed confidentiality agreements and never meet face-to-face with potential clients, Sunday’s story stated.

The entire operation is being funded by Rio Tinto, the international mining company constructing the Eagle Mine on the Yellow Dog Plains and the Humboldt Mill in Humboldt Township. Responding to criticisms that the Eagle Mine will have a very short life, Rio Tinto hopes to develop other businesses in the area to mitigate the boom and bust cycle of mining, a company official said.

Rio Tinto has committed to underwriting the effort for about the next two years. During that time, additional community resources will be identified to continue the work beyond then.

Of course, there are a great many unknowns at this point in the process, starting with, will this kind of effort work here, despite achieving good results elsewhere? While we don’t have the answer to that and many other questions, we like the basic concept.

Only time will tell.