Column: Looking forward to a day with Delta Force

ESCANABA — At the Delta County Economic Development Alliance (EDA), one of our favorite opportunities is facilitating a session of the Delta Force Leadership Program. Delta Force, organized by the Delta County Chamber of Commerce, is an annual course offered to a fresh class of students. The program serves to identify individuals who have displayed strong tendencies toward civic involvement and assists them on their way to becoming community leaders by exposing them to the many different aspects of life and work in Delta County. Throughout the year students will attend nine day-long sessions with focuses ranging from Government to Education on their way to graduation in the fall.

I’m looking forward to March, which brings ‘Economic Development Day’ to the Delta Force curriculum. It’s an opportunity for us to give students an overview on the may resources available to business owners in Delta County.

The day starts with a “Shark Tank” activity which is designed to get them in the headspace of being an entrepreneur with business idea. After pitching to a “Shark Panel” comprised of local business leaders the students will receive overviews on organizations that serve new and existing businesses including the Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Escanaba and Gladstone Downtown Development Associations (DDA). Local business owners will offer their own real examples on how they’ve capitalized on the services these organizations offer.

After a quick break for lunch the group of students will travel to EMP for a tour of its facility which is an awesome illustration of Delta County Manufacturing — a major economic driver in our area. Students get inside access to a large employer that they may not otherwise have the chance to see and understand.

The day concludes with a panel of Delta County entrepreneurs and small business owners. The students will have a chance to pick the brains of these business owners on what they attribute to their success and why knowing and using their resources is so beneficial.

‘Economic Development Day’ is just one small piece of Delta Force. It is a truly awesome program and at over 15 years old Delta Force is celebrating the largest class ever. Over 30 people are going to graduate from Delta Force this fall, meaning 30 plus new leaders better equipped to increase their potential in our community.

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TJ Thomas is executive director of the Delta County Economic Development Alliance