With the Michigan economy taking a nosedive, more and more across the state are living in poverty.

But groups statewide are rising to the challenge.

The Western U.P. Poverty Summit started up 8 months ago.

It had its most recent meeting last week.

The Michigan Department of Human Services has been contacting businesses and other government groups to join the summit.

They want to help area people and companies market their skills and strengths better.

Baraga/Houghton/Keweenaw Counties DHS Director Louisa Wills says the western U.P. has quite a few strengths that companies are looking for — abundant natural resources and a workforce ready and willing to find jobs being 2 of them.

Wills says this is the greatest need in the region that she’s ever seen.

Even with Terex Handlers in Baraga closing soon, and Smurfit-Stone employees in Ontonagon laid off again, the situation may soon get worse.

Wills says there are possibilities of other closures in Ontonagon and Gogebic counties, just to name 2.

Those closures could push Baraga County’s unemployment rate, which is already above 20%, up above the 25% mark.

The Summit has its next meeting in January.

Before that, you can find out more online about the group and others like it in Michigan.

That’s at: www.michigan.gov/poverty .