Iron River, MI (November 11, 2020) When the pandemic hit Iron River, MI, the town was already experiencing a higher than average unemployment rate and sluggish job growth. With the arrival of COVID-19, nearly all but essential workers had to find a way to work from home. Global Response, a call center that represents world-renowned brands, discovered an unforeseen problem: more than two dozen employees found their home internet speeds couldn’t handle the work.
They immediately reached out to InvestUP to brainstorm solutions. Global Response is a primary US-based provider of call center outsourcing services that represents leading brands in industries including retail, healthcare, insurance and automotive. Especially with online shopping at its peak, they couldn’t afford for valuable employees to be stuck collecting unemployment, unable to work.
InvestUP CEO Marty Fittante consulted with other local business leaders, then contacted Northern Michigan University in Marquette. Fortunately, NMU had existing technology to tackle the problem. The University’s Education Access Network (EAN) is a creative and affordable way to bring high-speed educational broadband to rural America. Although the goal of the EAN is to provide broadband access and educational resources to students, they were able to take the technology to Iron River and make it work for Global Resources.
Sandra Maki, Managing Supervisor of Global Response, was thrilled with the solution: “Thanks to the diligence and strategic thinking of InvestUP and the innovative minds at NMU, we were able to increase our workforce by 31 individuals, including some former employees that had not been able to work from home previously. It felt great to welcome our people back to work, even if they are still working from home. This technology will allow us to add even more jobs right here in Iron River at the end of this year.”
The EAN has been proven to be an incredibly novel and creative solution to bring high-speed broadband internet service to rural areas in the region. Funded by the MEDC under Steve Arwood’s leadership, the EAN is providing access to those who would otherwise not have it. Arwood is now the Strategic Advisor of InvestUP, a regional economic organization in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with a mission to drive prosperity across the region. The organization helps U.P. businesses grow, whether they are starting, expanding, realigning or rebuilding. They offer a single point of contact for tools, connections, expert services, information, and support across the region and throughout the state, working in partnership with local economic development organizations, institutional organizations like Northern Michigan University, government stakeholders and the private sector.
InvestUP is a private sector-led economic development organization keenly focused on driving economic growth across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Founded by the region’s leading private sector businesses and the region’s universities, its mission is to deliver business and job growth across the peninsula.