TRAVERSE CITY – A $30,000 grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation will assist the regional business financing efforts of Venture North Funding & Development.
The grant was presented at the inaugural Annual Meeting of Venture North held this morning in downtown Traverse City. It was presented by David Mengebier, Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for CMS Energy and President of the Consumers Energy Foundation.
Mengebier said the foundation has contributed some $1.2 million to non-profit organizations in Northern Michigan, and that the grant is consistent with the utility’s strategy to bolster economic development efforts across the state.
“It makes sense to have investment in regional economic development initiatives,” said Mengebier, who called for “predictable, consistent and robust” support for economic development efforts at the state, regional and local level. The grant will be used for administrative support to help Venture North spread its services to businesses and communities across its 10-county service area in Northwest Michigan.
“We would hope the community of Traverse City would look at this as a matching donation,” he said. “It’s actually connecting the capital to entrepreneurs and businesses that want to grow and expand.”
Venture North was created through the recent merger of the Traverse City Area Chamber Foundation and the Traverse Bay Economic Development Corp. Its regional business lending exceeds $2 million, assisting more than 40 businesses in the Grand Traverse area with expansions, equipment and inventory purchases, working capital and related needs.
“We appreciate the investment by the Consumers Energy Foundation to assist us in expanding our business lending and support activities across the region,” said Laura Galbraith, the Executive Director of Venture North. “We’ve helped dozens of area businesses and entrepreneurs fulfill their goals and dreams, and the support of the Consumers Energy Foundation will help us continue that mission.”
Venture North’s resources played a key role in helping one landmark Northern Michigan business, Cherry Republic, complete a major expansion and renovation project at its location in downtown Traverse City. Cherry Republic Chief Operating Officer Todd Ciolek told the crowd at the annual meeting that the project – which helped it nearly double its staff size in downtown Traverse City to more than 60 employees – was able to proceed this year because of critical gap financing provided by Venture North.
“Without Venture North, it probably would’ve taken a couple more years,” Ciolek said. “It’s been a great investment vehicle for Cherry Republic.”