Dennis West has spent over 30 years in the Community Economic Development Movement, having worked on a broad range of community-based civic and professional activities.
Since 1997, Dennis has served as President of Northern Initiatives, a private not for profit community development financial institution based in Marquette, Michigan. Northern Initiatives was founded by Northern Michigan University. Northern Initiatives serves 46 counties of rural Michigan and five Wisconsin Counties, providing financial and knowledge building services to start up and growing businesses in underserved rural markets. Northern Initiatives helps people start and grow businesses, strategizes with communities to develop public private partnerships, and promotes entrepreneurship, tourism and regional collaboration. NI has made over 950 loans totalling more than $55,000,000 with forty percent of its loans to women owned businesses, and around one third to start ups. Its business knowledge building services provide technical assistance, training and consulting to its 225 + loan portfolio. In 2015, it launched a loan customer portal, Initiate to offer blended learning opportunities to its customers in working with their NI coach.
Dennis serves on the Boards of the Michigan Magnet Fund, Community Economic Development Alliance of Michigan, UP Business Capital, the Upper Peninsula Economic Development Alliance and the Advisory Boards of the Michigan Redevelopment Ready Communities, the Michigan Good Food Fund, the Region One Small Business Technology Development Center, Invent@NMU, and Accelerate UP and the Finance Committee of the Community Foundations of the Upper Peninsula and the Michigan State Universities, Regional Economic Innovation, and the Marquette Ambassadors. Dennis is a Coach Mentor for the Kellogg Foundation, Fellowship Program. Dennis was the recipient of the 2011 LandUse Excellence Leadership Award given by Michigan State University and the Michigan Land Use Funders.
Dennis is a native of Indianapolis, having received his undergraduate degree from Hanover College and did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Urban Affairs.