TRAVERSE CITY — Every business has a story about changes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The seventh annual Northern Michigan Manufacturing Summit will tell eight of those tales as the event takes on a different format during a different time of the year.

“Stories of Humility, Agility and Perseverance: Manufacturing in Northern Michigan” is the theme for the 2021 summit, scheduled for June 24 from noon to 4 p.m. at Jacob’s Farm at 7100 East Traverse Highway (M-72 West).

Normally the summit emphasizes technological advances in manufacturing. The event usually is held indoors in early March at Northwestern Michigan College’s Hagerty Center.

The 2020 Northern Michigan Manufacturing Summit was held March 3, just before everything changed, said Rob Summers, chairman of the Grand Traverse Area Manufacturing Council, which hosts the annual event.

“This year is going to be pretty different,” said Summers, who is also senior business advisor with the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. “We made allowances for backing it up to June and having it outside for obvious reasons. We’re moving forward.”

Part of moving forward is getting closure on the past year, Summers said. That isn’t always easy when a manufacturer is in survival mode, he added.

“I think it’s an appropriate time,” Summers said. “You’ve got some of everything going on ... No business has really had a time to reconcile the history they’ve gone through.

“So this will be a time of reconciling. A way to kind of bury the past and get excited about the future.”

The June 24 summit begins with what Summers called “a soft start” at noon. Programming begins at 12:30 and concludes at 4 p.m. A reception is scheduled to begin at the close of programming.

Betsy Williams, senior business development advisor with Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, believes keeping the tradition alive is important. She said the change in venue and format should create a “low-key, fun atmosphere.”

“We’re just excited it’s going to be face-to-face and the seventh annual,” Williams said. “It’s grown over the years and created a lot of interest and value to the manufacturers. It’s really led by the manufacturers now.

“This year just getting people together will be wonderful in itself.”

Summers said companies will discuss their stories in each of the three categories corresponding with the theme. He summarized the three categories as:

  • Humility: Manufacturers still had a market, but pivoted to doing something else during the pandemic. Presenters: Traverse City Whiskey Co., Iron Fish Distillery, Skilled Manufacturing, Petoskey Plastics.
  • Agility: A manufacturing business totally changed operations during the pandemic. Presenters: Britten, Cherry Republic.
  • Perseverance: Manufacturers still had a market, but delivered products in a different way. Presenters: Graceland Fruit Company, Century Inc.

The summit is free and open to the public. Reservations can be made at Register at

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