|Hometown: Escanaba, MI|
|Major: Business Administration|
Throughout his career, Escanaba native Marty Fittante has worked as a lawyer, the chief of staff for state Sen. Tom Casperson, and the CEO of InvestUP. But before he worked in any of these positions, he built a foundation for his future at Bay College.
Shortly after graduating from Escanaba Senior High School in 1984, Marty started taking classes at Bay. He chose Bay due to its strong reputation in the local area and its cost-effective tuition.
“Some of my close friends from EHS went to Bay as well, so I kept those friendships while broadening my circle of relationships. Additionally, it helped me discover where my interests lied and gave me the tools I needed to succeed academically moving forward,” Marty said.
As a Bay student, Marty majored in business administration.
“It was broad enough that the credits would easily transfer – I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go at that point. Along with that, my dad was a banker, and I had some interest in generalized business by virtue of his experience,” he said.
His teachers at Bay – including adjunct professor Pat Wilde – played a key role in helping him develop a plan for the future.
“Her intro to business law classes were my first exposure to the world of law, and that encouraged me to go to Ferris State University and pursue a paralegal degree while I pursued my bachelor’s degree,” Marty said.
Marty graduated from Bay at the end of the winter 1986 semester and continued his education at Ferris that fall. There, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business management and a paralegal associate degree in the spring of 1988. After that, he attended law school at Wayne State University in Detroit and received a Juris Doctor degree in 2001.
Once he had the credentials he needed to enter the legal field, Marty returned to the local area. He practiced law in Escanaba for 12 years as a general practitioner with a focus on criminal defense.
“In 1999 or so, there was a young truck driver who lost a load of logs as he was driving on M-95, killing a woman and her infant daughter. Tom (Casperson) was a friend from childhood, and I called him for a logging-industry perspective on whether the truck driver, who was my client, was at fault for involuntary manslaughter,” he said.
From there, Tom got involved with the case and established a task force consisting of several industry experts. The group’s mission was to develop new safety standards for lumber transportation, including the use of crib-style trailers. However, these trailers needed to be two feet longer than “standard” trailers for truckers to haul the same amount of logs – and trailers of this length were prohibited in Michigan at the time.
“A state official told Tom, ‘If you don’t like the law, go change it.’ Tom was so frustrated by that, he decided to run for the state House in 2002,” Marty said.
Tom’s campaign was successful, and he served in the House from 2003 to 2008. After two years away from politics, he was elected to a position in the state Senate and served there from 2011 to 2018.
“The very first law that he passed was ‘Shayla’s Law,’ named in honor of the little girl who was killed. That law allowed crib trailers to be two feet longer,” Marty said.
About a year after the election, Marty joined Tom in Lansing as his chief of staff. He stayed in this position for the rest of Tom’s political career; during the two years Tom was out of office, Marty served in external affairs in a policy advisor role for the Michigan House Republican Caucus.
“My duties were pretty varied. I was involved with the policy of what Tom wanted to do for the district in terms of legal changes, helped constituents with issues they had, and stood in for him as a representative of his office in meetings and other events,” he said.
According to Marty, the skills he learned at Bay were essential in helping him thrive in his new line of work.
“The tools that helped me become a better student were certainly part of what helped me succeed in that role – being organized, being able to read about different topics and understand them, and being disciplined,” he said.
Marty also said Tom understood the role Bay plays in Escanaba and the Upper Peninsula as a whole. Both Tom and Marty were strong supporters of Bay’s efforts to establish its West Campus.
“Bay was trying to expand with Bay West in Iron Mountain in the middle of Tom’s House term. Tom and I flew up from Lansing to attend a public hearing in Iron Mountain. We talked about how important Bay is as an institution to the region and advocated for expanding Bay into the Dickinson County area,” he said.
Today, Marty is the CEO of the regional economic organization InvestUP. He said one of the main reasons he was approached for that job was because the skills required in the position overlapped with those needed in his chief of staff role.
“You’re trying to advance opportunities for the Upper Peninsula by removing barriers where they exist, identifying where new opportunities may lie, and developing strategies to realize those opportunities,” he said of his current job.
Marty was asked if he was interested in taking the InvestUP CEO position in the fall of 2018 and formally started in this role on Jan. 1, 2019. He noted that one of his key goals is supporting college education in the Upper Peninsula, especially since the qualifications offered by Bay and other institutions are more crucial than ever in today’s workforce.
“My time at Bay helped make me aware of the importance of the UP’s higher-education institutions. The stronger we can make these institutions, the stronger we are as a region,” he said.