To help get to know the Michigan Rural Network as individuals and organizations, the MRN will post a profile of a member organization every week. This week’s member organization is Northern Initiatives.

Northern Initiatives is an economic development nonprofit located in Marquette, Michigan that serves 44 northern counties in Michigan and 5 in Wisconsin. Its goal is to help small business owners access to markets, information and capital. An organization that has gone through many changes since it was first founded as an academic department of Northern Michigan University, it has since evolved into a private nonprofit that has loaned over $30 million through June 2010. These loans have helped 530 businesses in northern Michigan and has created over 900 new jobs and helped retain 400 jobs in rural communities.

Recently, NI has received a grant and loan from the USDA’s Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program that will allow it to provide both loans and technical assistance in all 49 counties for the first time. It also allows them to use an online application that will help streamline the application process to get more customers through the door with a faster response time.

NI also has developed an Enterprise Center, where 8-10 interns (NMU students) work to provide technical assistance to clients. They work on marketing, financial and technical assistance projects for clients that include social media, Google Analytics, Search Engine Optimization, utilizing research tools, spreading financial data, creating and updating websites, logo design and market research.

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