Business & Career Expo offers opportunities for community

High school students from county schools attended the Business and Career Expo, which allowed them to talk to area businesses about seasonal employment and future careers. (Jane Bond/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — From local businesses building community connections to students getting ready to enter the workforce, Manistee County is full of opportunities that continue to evolve.

Each of these moving parts were represented together on Thursday at the Manistee Chamber of Commerce Business and Career Expo, in partnership with Launch Manistee.

The expo took place in the event center at the Little River Casino Resort.

The event opened with a special opportunity for local high school juniors and seniors, offered through the partnership with Launch Manistee. Students were invited to explore what Manistee County has to offer for seasonal employment, as well as building pathways for their future careers.
“It has been a partnership that we’ve been doing for several years now, and it has been great to bring together businesses with the students for seasonal employment, opportunities after school or career choices that they may be interested in,” said Stacie Bytwork, president of the Manistee Chamber of Commerce. “There were some successes last year, with over 35 students receiving employment opportunities. It lets them know that career opportunities and job choices are available in this community.”

Although school was cancelled due to flooding and poor road conditions in Kaleva Norman Dickson, Onekama and Bear Lake Schools, the room was still bustling with students from CASMAN Academy, Manistee Catholic Central and Manistee High School.

“The superintendents from the county did invite their students to come out even though their schools were closed, so we did have a few who were able to make it out,” said Bytwork.

Laura Heintzelman, president and CEO of the Manistee County Community Foundation, said Launch Manistee’s partnership with the expo helps continue their initiative to support student success in Manistee County.
“This is a county-wide network, and all of our area school districts are a part of Launch Manistee,” she said. “In addition to that, it is a cradle-to-career education network, so we’re working with partners in early childhood education all the way through the K-12 system and into higher education.”

Heintzelman said it is a newer partnership with the Chamber, but has been a great opportunity to bring together students with potential employers.
“A few years ago the Career Expo portion didn’t exist, and so we worked together to identify how we could help students get better access to all that this day has to offer,” she explained. “We’ve been tweaking it over the years to see what works best for both the students and the exhibitors, and we’re pleased to see how well it has gone.”

The expo brings together a variety of different sectors from the community, including businesses, local government agencies and nonprofit groups, a collaboration that Heintzelman said has allowed plans to be put into action.
“Our partners are guided by a leadership team, and they put together a common agenda to create a shared vision for the education network and put some goals forward,” she said. “That has been one of the most powerful things, it’s a lot of shared work and a group effort.”

The expo was open to the public later in the afternoon, which Bytwork said allowed the community explore the variety of opportunities in Manistee County.

“We have over 40 businesses here, which is the target number for us,” said Bytwork. “We’re going with a ‘love local’ theme, and we’re trying to get the community together to engage with what each business has to offer.”

The expo offered large giveaways including a Manistee County “Summer Experience” package and a chance to win $25,000 in cash or a new Jeep. Many booths also had games set up along with chances to win prizes.

Contact Jane Bond at (231) 398-3111 or email jane.bond@hearst.com. Follow her on Twitter: @MNA_Jane.

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