Northern Michigan county is first “Connected Community” in the country

Charlevoix County was recently recognized by Connected Nation with the first Connected Community certification awarded in the entire United States.

The Connected Community Engagement Program, managed in Michigan by Connect Michigan, supports the building of a comprehensive action plan for a “connected” community by reviewing the technology landscape, developing regional partnerships, establishing local teams, and conducting a thorough community assessment of broadband access, adoption and use.

Working with Connect Michigan, Michigan State University Extension partner the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) provided staff leadership to organize and direct this effort.

MSU Extension educator and NLEA president Andy Hayes explained that the certification came after a several-month long assessment undertaken by Charlevoix County Community Engagement and the creation of the Charlevoix Broadband Action Plan. The plan contains specific recommendations of projects to expand digital literacy, build awareness of the benefits of broadband, assist businesses with websites and social media, and improve the online presence of local governments, among other recommendations.

“Achieving the status of ‘connected’ certification affords a community an avenue to discuss its success and pursue opportunities as a recognized, technologically advanced community,” Hayes said. “This is an incredibly important part of our effort to develop high-speed broadband infrastructure in our region. This shows service providers that there is a market and a willingness to expand.”

MSU Extension has had a unique partner relationship with the NLEA, a regional economic development organization, for more than 20 years. Recognizing the strength of combining resources, this partnership focuses on economic development, entrepreneurship growth and community infrastructure throughout a four-county region in the northwestern Lower Peninsula -- Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet counties. As a result, the NLEA utilizes resources offered through MSU Extension as it provides leadership to statewide programs sponsored by MSU Extension.

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