New Organization Aims to Build Thriving Talent and Leadership in the UP

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LINK U.P. is re-establishing the former young professionals’ group in the area with a new mission. This new organization is designed to engage working individuals from all careers, experience levels and occupations through personal development and networking opportunities. It aims to enhance the community by developing a thriving network of working talent and leadership in the Dickinson area as well as throughout the Upper Peninsula.

Luke Carey, Katie Roell and John Orttenburger were instrumental in establishing the organization. The trio met up at Downtown Iron Mountain’s Oktoberfest, and the conversation led to discussing the need for a personal development and networking organization that was inclusive to all, regardless of profession or age. Carey is the owner of Carey Design Build, and Roell is the owner of Northern Michigan Dance Academy and also works at BOSS Snowplow with Orttenburger.

“Our group is open to everyone living and working in the Dickinson area,” remarked Luke Carey, owner of Carey Design Build. “We want to emphasize that networking, professional and personal development is for everyone no matter their career path or experience level.”

LINK U.P. has four pillars – Leading, Influencing, Networking and Knowledge-Sharing – that provide many ways to participate. Each pillar has a working committee to maintain momentum and alignment with the organization’s mission.

As a partnership of The Alliance, Link U.P. works closely with its Talent and Education Task Force. The group will be a valuable resource to employees and employers as they seek ways to engage with like-minded individuals and enhance personal development opportunities.

A key benefit of joining is LINK U.P. Circles, smaller groups focusing on themes such as leadership, small business, manufacturing, and education. The goal is to bring together those with specific industry knowledge and experience to benefit those interested in a particular area that may not already be actively involved or may be interested in learning more.

An all-volunteer executive board runs the organization with representation from the construction and design, manufacturing, education, banking and small business sectors. In addition to Carey, Roell and Orttenburger, the other board members are Michele Campbell of Bay College West, Emily Forstrom of BOSS Snowplow, Jake Hogberg of First National Bank & Trust and Elsa Pontbriand of Mountain Media House and CWRK Collective.

So far this year, the group has met regularly to plan two events. The first being the inaugural meeting and the second an intern social. A third social event is scheduled for July 20 at The Terrace and is open to anyone interested in learning more about the group.

On April 13, 40 individuals gathered at the Pine Mountain Resort for the inaugural meeting. The event introduced the organization and provided an opportunity to network while enjoying games and prizes.

“Year one is really about raising awareness of the group and creating a membership base by hosting socials throughout the year so people can come out and see what LINK U.P. is all about,” according to Orttenburger. “We are also building the organization’s foundation, collaborating with organizations in and outside the area, and seeking corporate sponsorships.”

LINK U.P. board members hosted interns from various local employers on June 1 at City Park in Iron Mountain. The annual Intern Social connects interns from our local businesses with each other and introduced them to the organization. From high school apprentices at Guide Star to college students getting hands-on experience in manufacturing, the group had a great time networking, playing cornhole and feasting on porketta sandwiches.  Alliance investor members donated swag, and everyone walked away with some great prizes.

“The Intern Social is an opportunity to share all of the wonderful things there are to do when living and working in the Dickinson area,” shared Lois Ellis, director of The Alliance. “This year, we are excited to have LINK U.P. members be the ambassadors for living and working here should any interns find full-time work in the area upon graduation.”

While the organization is in the Dickinson area, it is open to others located elsewhere in the U.P., especially those with business and professional interests in the area. The organization has corporate sponsorships and individual and college student memberships.

“The future vision of LINK U.P. is to break down the silos that exist in the Upper Peninsula and to connect this group with other like-minded organizations across the region. We hope to inspire, empower and connect individuals in and outside our area to reach their full potential, shape decision-making processes and drive positive change in our communities,” said Katie Roell.

If you want to join LINK U.P., visit or plan to attend the next social on July 20.

Follow LINK U.P. on Facebook and Instagram for the latest information.

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Lois Ellis

Lois Ellis joined the Dickinson Area Economic Development Alliance as Executive Director in December 2017. Ellis began her career in economic development with the Lake Superior Community Partnership in Marquette County for 12 years and then served as the Business Development Manager for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation covering the Upper Peninsula region for two years.

Elsa Pontbriand

Elsa Pontbriand is the founder of CWRK Collective, a coworking business in Downtown Iron Mountain. She is also a co-founder of Mountain Media House, a media and communication company. After living in Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., and Chicago for many years, she returned to the U.P. and found an entrepreneur-friendly community with a demand for marketing, communication and media services.

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