The Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors announced the 2019 Future Five: Melissa Alvarado, Mitch Foster, Katie Miller, Ben Nickelson and Annie O’Connor.

According to a press release, the honorees, ages 21 to 40, are being recognized for excellence in their young, professional careers. These individuals are currently influencing the growth, prosperity and quality of life in Mason County and demonstrate the ability to positively impact the area in the future through professional accomplishments and community involvement.

“We could not be more pleased with this lineup of incredible professionals,” stated Brandy Miller, president and CEO of the chamber, in the release. “They have each demonstrated what it means to be a leader in the community. I am confident we will continue to see big things from each of these honorees.”

The 2019 Future Five will be recognized at the chamber’s Annual Awards Dinner, which has been rescheduled for Oct. 17 at Lincoln Hills Golf Club. Additional awards will be announced that evening: Mason County Business of the Year, Mason County Small Business of the Year and Community Service.

Melissa Alvarado is the general manager of Ludington’s liquid bulk trucking company, Quick-Way, Inc. When presented with the opportunity to move back to Ludington, Alvarado stated she couldn’t refuse.

“It meant an incredible professional opportunity, as well as being able to move back to an area with endless options for outdoor adventures,” she stated in the release. “My goal (at Quick-Way) over the last few years has been to help create an environment where staff can appreciate the difference they each make in the work they do, and that they feel like they are part of something much bigger. I believe we are doing important work, not just in the physical delivery of product around the Midwest and East Coast, but in the massive focus on safety, the daily efforts for continuous improvement, and the level of service provided to our customers. The small team at Quick-Way accomplishes a lot of work together. This nomination is evidence to me that we are headed in the right direction, and I am humbled and thrilled to have been nominated.”

Mitch Foster is the city manager for the City of Ludington. He said that, as a former resident of Mason County, he and his wife visited Ludington over the past four years, and realized the city had everything they were looking for: a thriving downtown and an amazing waterfront as well as a great school district.

“Once the city manager job came open, I took it as a sign that we were meant to return to this area and begin the next stage of our lives here,” Foster stated in the release. “This nomination is a humbling experience to realize that there are those around the community who see me as a good representative of local government and for the future of the community. This shows me that my focus on improving the lives of all community members, engaging them in how we create a better Ludington, and staying an engaged community member myself has made an impact.”

Foster stated he hopes to work on programs or initiatives designed to help residents in Ludington have greater access to social services, improved job and housing prospects, as well as lower the cost of living for year-round residents, all while the community continues to be attractive to new investment.

Katie Miller is a public health educator at District Health Department No. 10. She moved back to her hometown of Ludington in 2015 and has been active on many boards at the local, state and national levels. She is especially proud of her work on the local Leeward Initiative, which helps ensure access to treatment for those struggling with addiction.

“My vision for the future is to continue building connections in my community and work toward making Mason County the healthiest, happiest place for children and families to grow and thrive,” Miller stated in the release. “I am honored to be nominated as a Future Five recipient and feel that, for me, it is a representation of the passion that I have for this community and the work I do every day. I hope to continue channeling my passions and skills into work that makes a positive impact on the well-being of Mason County residents.”

Ben Nickelson is a third-generation owner of the Nickelson Tree Farm & Nursery, along with his wife. He is honored to be recognized for his work and is motivated to keep moving forward.

“We want to start transforming the Christmas tree farm into more of a destination where families can spend a half-day, not only selecting their Christmas tree, but also enjoying wagon rides, light displays and campfires,” Nickelson stated in the release. “We think family time plays a vital role in the development of our kids. Anything we can do to help give families another opportunity to spend time together, in turn, helps our community.”

He added that they would like to expand the Ludington Walk of Trees, an event the Nickelsons have held for the past four years, which raises funds for Shop with a Cop and provides Christmas trees for those who cannot afford one.

Annie O’Connor is the director of demand planning and supply chain at FloraCraft of Ludington. She feels it is important to be a role model for the younger, female generation, not only as a leader in the manufacturing world, but also as a mother and someone who is active in the community.

“It is important to know that we can be great mothers while still having ambitious goals in the workplace,” O’Connor stated in the release. “I am so honored to know that others look up to me as a young, female leader in our community. As FloraCraft continues to grow bigger and better, I too hope to continue to grow and become vice president of supply chain.”

O’Connor stated she is appreciative of her community and “how much we unite in a time of need and truly help one another through tough times.”

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