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Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

Thank you to everyone who attended this event!

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The Keynote Speaker:


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Owner of  Contrast Coffee

Adam started his career in church ministry as a pastor in Ohio before eventually accepting a part time ministry position in Iron River, MI in order to move closer to family. At the same time, Adam started working with a wireless internet service provider (ISP) where he quickly learned the business and technology requirements. Soon after, Adam started his own ISP servicing Iron and Dickinson Counties. A year into this venture another start up wireless ISP called Sonic Net based in Eagle River WI, approached Adam about merging and he accepted. After the addition of Adam, Sonic Net experienced strong growth over 6 years as he negotiated with cities and municipalities for the rights to build wireless internet broadcast towers and marketed the product offering to new subscribers. Adam stepped down from Sonic Net in January of 2016 before coming full time with Contrast Coffee Company. Currently Adam is the COO of Contrast with responsibilities including green coffee buying, Roast Master and expansion developer.

Breakout Session Speakers:

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Bob LaFave

Village Manager for L'Anse, MI

Bob is the chief administrative officer of the Village of L'Anse, MI located at the head of the Keweenaw Bay on Lake Superior.  The Community has a population of 2,011 (2010 Census) and is a full service community.  Along with the core functions of his position, in his 11 years of service to the community he has worked with multiple community stakeholders (Village Council, DDA, Chamber of Commerce, Baraga County EDC, Planning Commission, and citizen groups) to engage in placemaking and downtown revitalization efforts to improve the quality of life of local residents and to help make the community more attractive to visitors and business alike.  Bob holds a B.A. from Michigan State University's James Madison College and an Masters of Public Administration from Grand Valley State University.  Bob holds a Citizen Planner Certification from MSU Extension and is currently is a PhD. student in Michigan Technological University's Environmental and Energy Policy Program.

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Robert Micheau

Executive Director of Visit Escanaba

Robert started at Visit Escanaba in June of 2017. He helped guide a comprehensive planning processes to define the group's strategic plan as the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for Delta County. His background is in marketing and communications where he has spent most of his career. Robert and his wife, Meghan also operated a bed and breakfast for six years in Gladstone, Michigan.

Robert will talk with us about the planning Visit Escanaba has gone through and the process of redefining their organization. They have successfully expanded the digital footprint of Visit Escanaba reaching more potential customers and visitors.

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Will Cronin

MSUE Tourism + Community Development Educator

Will Cronin is a Tourism and Community Development Educator with Michigan State University Extension. He leads MSU Extension’s tourism programming in the Upper Peninsula, including First Impressions Tourism, Understanding Tourism for Michigan Communities, and the Tourism Readiness Community Self-Assessment. He also works on community branding projects, and programs in community economic development and organizational development with public and nonprofit organizations. He comes to MSU Extension after seven years as a county Community Development Educator with the University of Wisconsin-Extension. He lives in Houghton with his family.

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Amy Nosal

Community Development Educator, UW-Madison Extension Iron County

Amy Nosal has a background in natural resource sciences and environmental education.She has served Iron County, WI in partnership UW-Extension since 2013.She first started as an AmeriCorps VISTA focused on multidisciplinary strategies to promote community revitalization through youth engagement, and has continued to pursue this goal through a variety of program positions, including food systems, family-focused programming, and community development.Currently Nosal engages in collaborative projects that build the capacity of local leaders to encourage positive systems change.

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Neil Klemme

4-H Positive Youth Development Educator, UW-Madison Extension Iron County

Neil Klemme has served as the 4-H Youth Development Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension since 2012. He has worked to develop programming that includes youth in key decision making roles in their community. He has created opportunities for youth to be involved in creating promotional materials that highlight Iron County’s natural attractions, develop a survey to provide youth feedback to the county fair board as to what youth want to see at the county fair, and has developed programming that includes the creation of 6 seats on the Iron County Board of Supervisors. By connecting youth to these decision making opportunities we are telling them that they have a role in our community and that we want them to be invested in the community’s future.


Brad Neumann

MSU Senior Extension Educator

Brad Neumann is a MSU Senior Extension Educator who serves as an educational resource for local and tribal governments across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the areas of land use planning and zoning, community and economic development and general governance topics including effective meetings and civic engagement. He specializes in Placemaking, planning and zoning for renewable energy systems, local government climate adaptation and mitigation and zoning issues related to the Michigan Right to Farm Act and the Land Division Act. Neumann has worked as a private-sector planner and in the capacity of a public-sector planner and has taught and conducted original research as a National Science Foundation Fellow. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and holds certificates from the National Charrette Institute and Form-Based Codes Institute. Brad holds B.S. degrees in Land Use Planning and Economics from Northern Michigan University and a M.S. degree in Natural Resource Economics and Policy from the University of Maine.

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Chad Susott

Board Member of Dickinson Trail Network

Chad Susott is the Chief of Dentistry at the Iron Mountain VA medical center and board member of the Dickinson Trail Network (DTN). DTN is a 501c(3) non-profit group of dedicated volunteers whose mission is to build, maintain, and promote non-motorized trails throughout Dickinson County.  Dr. Susott has deep roots in this community, being born and raised in this area and graduating from Kingsford High School in 2003.  Chad went on to receive his bachelors in Physiology from Michigan State University where he performed as their mascot Sparty (2005-2007, UCA National Champion 2007).  After college, he received his Doctorate in Dental Surgery from Indiana University before moving back to his hometown of Iron Mountain.  Dr. Susott is excited to lead Dickinson Trail Networks in giving back to the to this incredible community that has meant so much to him growing up.

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Liz Slajus

Advanced Master Gardener

Liz Slajus is an Advanced Master Gardener. She completed the EMG training in 2014 in Marquette. She lives with her husband in Breitung Township and established the Woodland Child Care Children’s Garden in Kingsford MI. Her 4 children attended Kingsford Schools and she wanted to give back to the school system. She was previously an elementary school teacher and this is a great way to work with children and in the garden. The garden is beginning its 5 year, each year expanding to include a vegetable, pollinator and flower gardens. The garden provides hands-on experience for 80, 2.5-11 year old children from April to November. The garden is financed through community grants obtained by Liz.


Mia Tavonatti

Founder + Creator of the

Power of Words Project

In 2011, Mia Tavonatti, an award winning Southern California artist, launched the Power of Words Project in Laguna Beach and in 2012 Mia completed the second Power of Words Project in downtown Iron Mountain. Since 2012 she has completed a total of five POWP murals in Iron Mountain. Mia has a soft spot in her heart for Iron Mountain, because she grew up in this town. After twenty years of building a successful, award winning career as a professional artist, college instructor, Air Force artist, and the founder of Svelata Foundation for the Arts, Mia has been blessed with the honor and opportunity of returning her artistic victory and experience to her native state of Michigan. It is Mia’s mission to help people reconnect with their creativity in projects that invite the community to participate in the creative process. Many of her projects provide a space where young potential creators can learn to grow their visions and dreams of being artists as they work with those who have come before them. This project hits close to home for Mia, as she is passionate about using her talents to help revitalize the same downtown where she grew up in her parent’s art stores.


Paula Craven

Program Director of Iron Mountain's Downtown Development Authority

Paula Craven is a Hoosier gone Yooper, moving from Indiana to Iron Mountain in 2015. After receiving her Bachelor's Degree in Organizational Communication from Ball State University she moved to Traverse City, MI to become the "Coordinator of Chaos" and Project Manager for a marketing and branding agency called Intersection. After working for this agency for two years, she met her now husband and moved to the UP to start a life with him. Paula has been the Program Director at the City of Iron Mountain Downtown Development Authority for three and a half years and spends most of her time promoting downtown Iron Mountain, meeting with downtown business owners, future developers and raising money for beautification and placemaking projects throughout the downtown district.

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Parker Jones

MSUE Innovation Counselor, Community, Food & Environment Institute

Parker comes from an academic background in environmental systems and work experience that, gradually then quickly, moved him a safe distance from lab protocols and dreaded math. Now, Parker works as a small business counselor helping, mainly, food and value-added agriculture entrepreneurs launch innovative products into retail spaces. His subject area also includes produce safety and community food systems. Parker is based in Menominee county, but works with entrepreneurs across the Upper Peninsula. 


Garett Ziegler

MSUE Community Food Systems Educator

Garrett is a Community Food Systems Educator who serves both Extension Districts 5 & 7 and covers the following counties: Kent, Ottawa, Allegan, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Lake, Mason. He has expertise in assisting local institutions (schools, hospitals, colleges/universities, long-term care facilities) source and serve more locally produced food. He serves on the leadership committee of the Michigan Farm to Institution Network and is chair of the Network's Tech Ed Subcommittee. Garrett has worked extensively on the development of a state-wide local purchasing campaign for insitutions called Cultivate Michigan. Garrett also has worke closely with local farmers to help them find acess to new makrets for their produce and meats and has expertise in local farm network development and collaborative community supported agriculture marketing. Garrett also has worked extensively with the development of tourism resources and events in the state of Michigan, specifically focused on local food, farms, and art through Southwest Michigan's Arts and Eats tour. Garrett also has an interest in tourism development around the growing craft beverage industry and Michigan and the new local supply chain that is being developed to support it.

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Brian Wibby

MSUE Educator

Brian Wibby is an MSU Extension Educator housed in Marquette County.  Brian currently serves on the Leadership and Civic Engagement (LCE) work team of the MSU Extension Children and Youth Institute.  Brian provides leadership for youth development programming focused primarily on the development of youth leadership, civic engagement and global citizenship knowledge and skills on a statewide basis, with a special emphasis on serving the communities located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Brian holds a Master of Science in Social Administration degree from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University and a Bachelors of Arts in Advertising from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at Michigan State University.  In his role as a MSU Extension Educator, Brian provides leadership for community based programming and outreach focused on the development of youth leadership capacity and community engagement.  He also provides leadership for programs, such as the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute, which engage youth from across Michigan in the development of global citizenship competencies. 

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Evan Blagec

Part Owner + General Manager at True North Outpost

Evan Blagec is a 30 year old native of Niagara WI. He is part owner and General Manager of True North Outpost. A new up and coming outdoor adventure business in Norway, MI. that deals in canoe, kayak, bike and paddle board rental. They also specialize in white water rafting trips and indoor rock climbing.  He is also the owner and creative director of Mr. Black presents, a local compendium of artists, set designers, film makers, writers, costume, special effects and makeup artists. They host local events in and around the area, some of witch include, The Blair House Haunted House, Cyrus Jones Escape Experience and musical Sweeney Todd. On top of everything else he also is the 1st Assistant Director for the local film production being hosted and shot in the U,P, Northbound, which is now in its third season. Evan  has a flair and energy that will get your attention and keep you wanting to know more. 

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Rebecca Krans

MSUE Consumer Horticulture Educator

Rebecca Krans, works as an MSU Extension Consumer Horticulture Educator, covering the entire Upper Peninsula, as well as serving on a statewide team.  She coordinates the Michigan Extension Master Gardener program across the UP, manages a UP team of trained Extension Master Gardener lawn & garden hotline responders, coordinates Smart Gardening outreach and education across the UP, and provides additional gardening education via presentations, working directly with the Crystal Falls Contemporary Center’s Garden Camp, and many other venues.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time on her small farm with chickens, sheep, and horses; gardening; and enjoying nature.

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Paul Putnam

MSUE District 1 Director

Paul Putnam is the MSU Extension District 1 Director covering 9 central and western UP counties.  Paul coaches and manages field staff in 8 county offices and travels extensively throughout the district.

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