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History of MABA

In March of 1997, 5 local business leaders gathered for morning coffee meeting at Dusty’s Cellar, a highly respected and heritage business in Meridian Township. 

The Founding  5

Matt Rhodes  – Dusty’s Cellar , Owner

Keith Terry – Nationwide Insurance Agency

Kevin O’Neil – Edward Jones

Vivian Laux – National City (now PNC Bank)

Barry Tons – Tons and Associates (now Baron Tons, LLC)

Malinda Larson (now Barr) was appointed to the board in May 1997; Marsha Madle was appointed in October of the same year.  Matt, Barry, & Keith were all also serving on the Meridian Township Economic Development Corporation (MTEDC), which is where the seed money came to start the group. MABA began under the direction of the MTEDC as a business organization that focused on networking and supporting business on the east side of Lansing; something that, at the time, was not a priority for the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce.

There was a $5000 grant from the MTEDC to get MABA up and running.  This was used to cover the costs for brochures, meeting expenses, and other basic start up needs.  By year end 1998, the MTEDC set MABA on their own and they applied for 501(c)3 non-profit status.  By the end of the 5th year, MABA repaid the seed money to the MTEDC as MABA was completely self-sufficient.  Then MTEDC gifted that money back to MABA to begin a rainy day fund. This money has been moved around from back to bank depending on which banks/credit unions were represented on the MABA board. The $5000 was divided in half and deposited in two high-interest earning accounts as a security blanket.

These types of groups were popping up all around the greater Lansing area to provide activities and to give attention to the small business community. MABA was modeled after the South Lansing Business Association (SLBA). At the time, the SLBA was more formal and more politically aligned than MABA wanted to be. So modifications were made and MABA became a formally organized group. The west side, Delta Township, modeled their organization after the MABA format, as did the Dewitt Area Community Alliance.

The first promotion that the founding members came up with to jump start the growth of MABA was the first 50 businesses that signed up by Dec 31, 1997 were considered ‘FOUNDING’ members and their annual dues would never be more than $50. On December 31, 1997 there were 55 new founding members, (5 were grandfathered in). First 50 received the benefit of $50 Forever! Seven of these members are still active in MABA today.

The networking meetings began and have stood the test of time as a 2nd Friday of the month morning staple. This meeting has taken on a lot of shapes over the years but has remained an awesome networking opportunity to shake hands and get face to face time with potential leads, clients, prospects and referrals. This was always one of the goals, to set the standard for true small business networking at its best! The meeting location changed as the membership out grew each restaurant. Dusty’s Cellar, Gus’s Watershed (now Mark’s Watershed), Blue Gill Grill, and currently City Limits East.

The Original 3 Goals for MABA were:

·         Build to and maintain a membership level of 10% of the Meridian Township businesses

·         Set the Standard in small business networking and relationship building

·         Strengthen the relationship between public / private  entities with in the township

MABA's founding members wanted to create a way for local business to interact on a monthly basis through a monthly member meeting.  Through a strategic planning process that started in 2014 that mapped out new goals for MABA, the current Board of Directors is working to fulfill that strategic plan.  The addition of the Business Development Grant Program, Philanthropic Grant program, and the all-new Joan Smith Memorial Scholarship are a part of this plan.  We look to continue the traditions set forth by the founding members of MABA while continuing to add value for all MABA Members.



Meridian Area Business Association

MABA is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization
P.O. Box 234, Meridian Township , MI  48864
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