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      Businesses in the U.P. unite

      Wednesday was the first UPward Initiative Tourism and Professional Development conference at the Island Resort Casino in Harris.

      The event focused on shining light on the U.P.â??s business communities and forming tactics to increase the tourism industry.

      â??In the Upper Peninsula we're sparsely populated, as you know. The more all of us work together to have a better understanding of each other's businesses, the better. I think that that's the key to making any business successful,â?? says Nitasha Lantz, liason of Marquette Food Co-op.

      Organizers say this mix and mingling is essential. By getting familiar with each other, businesses are able to point tourists traveling the Upper Peninsula in the right direction of what they're looking to experience.

      â??Getting out and rubbing elbows with all of the other business owners here in the area is an amazing tool and service. It would take hours of my personal time to make these connections on my own,â?? says Matt Williams, co-owner of Northwoods Adventures.

      A committee of 19 people has been organizing the event since last year. Steve Masters, one of the committee members, hopes the conference helps businesses see what's needed to be successful and work together, helping the U.P. grow as a team.

      â??Provide them with tools to enhance their business and educational opportunities,â?? says Steve.

      The conference also had keynote speakers providing business owners tips and tools on how to thrive. They also spoke about methods of productive marketing and connecting with consumers.

      Approximately 150 people attended the conference. Organizers believe it was successful and hope to make it an annual event.