Leelanau Peninsula Economic Foundation

Leelanau Peninsula Economic Foundation strives to make available all tools, resources, and collaborative opportunities to assist the businesses and communities of Leelanau County strengthen and sustain their economic vitality.

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The Leelanau Peninsula Economic Foundation strives to offer the tools, resources, and collaborative opportunities that will assist businesses and communities of Leelanau County to strengthen and sustain their economic vitality.


The Foundation was the idea of the Board of Directors of the Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce with the goal of bringing together all of the existing Leelanau County village Chambers and other business leaders in a collaborative effort to identify, prioritize, and address the wider variety of challenges facing all businesses in Leelanau.


  • Early childhood programs and services
  • Workforce development and job creation
  • Internet/broadband connectivity
  • Workforce housing
  • Transportation

Board Members

  • Jim Bardenhagen - Agriculture, LIFT Committee Member
  • Scott Walker - Northport-Omena Chamber
  • Laura Galbraith - Venture North Funding and Development
  • Tim Haring - Former President of Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce
  • Patricia Soutas-Little - Chair LPEF; Leelanau Internet Futures Team
  • Jeff Shaw - Elmwood Township Supervisor
  • Sharon Oriel - Housing North Chair
  • Brayton Farr - Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce

Chamber Partners

  • Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce
  • Empire Chamber of Commerce
  • Glen Lake Chamber of Commerce
  • Lake Leelanau Community Association
  • Leland Chamber of Commerce
  • Northport-Omena Chamber of Commer
  • Suttons Bay Chamber of Commerce

Strategic Partners

  • Leelanau County
  • Traverse City Rotary Charities
  • North Sky Non-Profit Network
  • Networks Northwest
  • TART Trails
  • Leelanau County Housing Action Committee
  • Housing North
  • Northwest Michigan Works!
  • Michigan Economic Development Council
  • Sleeping Bear Gateways Council


  • Surveyed over 100 Leelanau businesses to determine advantages and constraints to doing business in Leelanau County and how local businesses wish to partner on community development initiatives.
  • Partnered with regional economic development agencies such as MEDC, Michigan Works! and Venture North connecting Leelanau businesses with critical resources to meet their needs including talent attraction and workforce retention.
  • Developed a three-year strategic plan to inform the work of LPEF by Leelanau stakeholders that the LPEF is intended to serve or partner with, including representatives from the agriculture, business, education, and local government sectors.
  • Established the Leelanau Internet Futures Team (LIFT), comprised of over 20 stakeholders throughout Leelanau county, and tasked with examining the status of broadband services and developing an action plan to provide countywide high-speed internet access.  LIFT continues to meet with government and community partners to implement the action plan, including working with five internet service providers to establish their infrastructure within the County.
  • Co-led the County's housing task force supporting the creation of a Housing Action Committee (HAC) for Leelanau.  A representative of the LPEF serves on both the newly formed Housing North organization and as a member of the HAC actively pursuing an action plan for Housing Ready Communities.  The goal of the plan is to put in place a program that assists Leelanau County's villages and townships develop affordable workforce housing plans and policies.  Presentations have been made to local units of government serving the communities of Northport, Suttons Bay, Empire, Elmwood, Centerville, Leland, and Glen Arbor.  Plans to engage the remaining townships and villages are underway.
  • Co-led the Early Childhood County Committee reviewing existing early childhood programs and services, creating and recommending a sustainable, high quality, expanded early childhood program for families in Leelanau County.  A ballot proposal requesting millage funding to support this program expansion was placed on the November 2019 ballot and was passed by Leelanau County voters.  The program, to be housed in the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department, begins offering services in 2020.  The need for early childhood programs ranked high in the LPEF business survey.  An LPEF early childhood committee was created to continue work on early childhood issues relating to childcare providers, childcare partnerships, and financial support for families.
  • Expanded the LPEF Board of Directors to include all the local Chambers reflecting the business community more broadly.  Updated the strategic plan incorporating new initiatives consistent with the expanded board.  Our priorities for 2020 remain supporting and attracting young families in Leelanau County, creating year-round employment opportunities with a livable wage, increasing broadband strength and connectivity countywide, finding opportunity for the development of workforce housing, workforce recruitment, and retention, and designing the systems required for the sustainability of our organization.
  • Secured $25,000 to hire a part-time coordinator, effective January 2020 to further board progress on initiatives.
  • Partnered with the Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce to develop and lead the Leelanau Recovery Team (LRT), a collective of nearly 100 community leaders and business owners concerned with COVID-19 recovery initiatives.  The LRT meets bi-weekly on a Zoom call facilitated by LPEF to share COVID-19 business and community best practices, and foster critical connections between Leelanau business owners and community service providers including local media, parks and recreation, chambers of commerce, Michigan Works!, financial institutions, and the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department to encourage unifying and collaborative responses to the COVID-19 pandemic across Leelanau County.
  • Partnered with Venture North to develop and implement the Regional Resiliency Fund which has, so far, provided $98,500 in emergency relief grants to 42 small businesses in Leelanau County.