ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – Thursday was the final session of Delta Force, a one-year training academy for up-and-coming business professionals in Delta County.
“They take one day a month where they learn about certain aspects of the community and what it takes to be successful in our community,” said Jesse Huff, Delta County Chamber of Commerce Chair and Radio Results Network (RRN) General Manager.
For their final course, participants learned about media and communications. They practiced public speaking, telling their stories, and sharing their brand with RRN and the Daily Press.
Participants ended the day with a reporter from WZMQ 19 News. They had the chance to answer questions from local media in front of a camera, such as, “Why did you join Delta Force?”
“I’m not from here,” explained Derek Light, a loan officer at Baybank. “I’ve lived here about three years, and I didn’t really know a lot about it. Joining this has opened my eyes to everything that Delta County really offers. It’s a lot more than I ever expected.”
“I’ve lived here 15 years and I didn’t know a quarter of what I’ve learned over the last nine months,” said VanAire software architect Ismael Lopez.
“I wanted to learn more about our community and all the different moving parts that make everything work in the end,” answered participant Kaili Murray. “I aspire to be a community leader, hopefully a business owner, at some point in this community and I want to be able to give back.”
“I was born and raised in this community and I’ve been gone for 20 years in the Marine Corps, followed by ten years of working down in Green Bay,” said Matt Valiquette, U.P. State Fairgrounds operations manager for the Chamber of Commerce. “This was a great opportunity for me to build my professional networks and learn more about the place I now live.”
This year’s class is made up of a wide range of individuals, including Gladstone Area High School senior Josh Racine.
“My mom said, ‘You should look into this,'” Racine said. “‘Maybe it would be something for you to put on a college application and just learn more about the community.'”
Racine received sponsorships from local businesses to join the program. He says he is grateful for the opportunity to be part of Delta Force at such a young age.
“I feel like it gives you a better understanding of your local community and community leaders so you can become better experienced and how they run their businesses and organizations to make you a better leader,” he said.
Some businesses routinely have an employee join Delta Force, like Peninsula Federal Credit Union.
“We’re a very community-oriented organization,” said loan officer Ashley Edwardsen. “We like to send somebody to learn more about what we can do to help our members and give them opportunities beyond just their financing.”
Paige Jacobs, project manager at Richard’s Printing, also joined the program at the recommendation of a co-worker.
“I have a lot of experience now with community functions, so I’m going to put that toward my nonprofits that I do in Gladstone and some of our future endeavors at work.”
At next week’s annual Chamber of Commerce dinner, the Delta Force professionals will graduate from the program and celebrate the new skills they can use in their day-to-day community interactions.
“There’s so much that happens in our community that so many people don’t know about,” Huff said. “There are so many people working hard, there’s so much economic development. It just brings an appreciation and understanding of how the local community works.”
To learn more about Delta Force, click here.