Leadership Keweenaw: Program grooms local residents to be leaders in government, economy

Jon Jaehnig/For the Gazette In keeping with the SmartZone's goal of growing the local economy, one of its members has just completed the Leadership Keweenaw program, a course that helps community members learn about the government and economy.

Every year the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce holds Leadership Keweenaw, a year-long program that helps participants develop leadership skills and learn how to be more successful in their area. Every year the program accepts a maximum of 15 participants. Participants in the program pay a $1,195 tuition fee for the program, which pays for food, transportation costs and other supplies and services.

The cost of tuition is often paid with the help of a corporate sponsor. Corporate sponsors are usually local businesses or community organizations that see funding a participant as an investment in their business and community.

The program consists of 11 sessions over 10 months, including three retreats during which participants can meet and talk with other area professionals. Participants in the program benefit by building professional networks, hearing speeches and presentations from guest speakers, learning about local economies, environments and governments and even meeting with state officials. There are also assignments and projects culminating in a final community service project. During the community service project the participants are split into four groups, which meet a minimum of one day per month. Teams work with area business owners and community officials to create and complete a project that improves the local community or economy. The teams spend an estimated 150 hours working on their projects.

This year, one project involved working with the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce to improve outreach to members, one project worked with students at Michigan Technological University to repair and re-launch the HEAT program and one worked with the village of Calumet to conduct research into ways to improve their snow-removal budget.

The final group worked with the chamber, local business owners and community photographers to create a brief video to welcome new people into the area. The video “Life in the Keweenaw” can be found on YouTube.

“We wanted it to be a welcoming arm for the community,” said Devin Leonarduzzi, marketing assistant for the SmartZone and graduate of this year’s program.

Following the successful presentation of their community-service projects, participants in the program took part in a formal graduation and final retreat, which took place on May 10.

Businesses interested in submitting a project to be worked on by the next Leadership Keweenaw participants can submit requests to the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce.

Individuals interested in participating in the Leadership Keweenaw program can find more information online at www.keweenaw.org/leadership-keweenaw. As of this writing, the page still has the information for the recently closed session, but the information on the page is still useful.