Back To Michigan Wins Awards for Excellence in Economic Development

January 4, 2021 – Back To Michigan, a state-wide talent attraction event series was awarded a Silver and Bronze ranking by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) at the Council’s 2021 annual conference. 

Spearheaded by Hello West Michigan, Back To Michigan it is a collaborative effort by more than ten organizations representing multiple regions across the state. The Return North team is proud to represent the Upper Peninsula, which includes the MTEC SmartZone, Innovate Marquette SmartZone, and the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (EDC).


IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. 25 award categories honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities. Awards are judged by a diverse panel of economic and community developers, following a nomination process held earlier this year. IEDC received over 500 submissions from 4 countries.

At the Council’s 2021 annual conference, Back To Michigan took home two awards:

  • Back To Michigan Host Organization Committee won Silver in the Regionalism and Cross-Border Collaboration category
  • Back To Michigan event series won Bronze in the Innovation Programs and Initiatives category

“The winners of IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development awards represent the best of economic,” said 2021 IEDC Board Chair and Invest Buffalo Niagara, President, and CEO Tom Kucharski. “This year, more than ever, has presented opportunities to innovate, impact, and progress the cities, neighborhoods, and communities around us.”


As part of the state-wide Back To Michigan talent attraction initiative, Return North is a professional career fair aimed at retaining Upper Peninsula talent as well as attracting alumni, former residents, and friends of the U.P. back to the region. Initially created by the MTEC SmartZone, The event is now a true U.P.-wide event hosted by all three Upper Peninsula-based SmartZones: MTEC SmartZone, Innovate Marquette SmartZone, and Sault Ste. Marie EDC.

The most recent Return North event took place on May 20, 2021, and was presented by TriMedia Environmental & Engineering. We would like to also thank our gold-level sponsors: InvestUP, Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Michigan Technological University, NorthCross Group, and Upper Peninsula Michigan Works!