Building relations: KEDA helping strengthen Finnish ties

Jett Ratcliffe, director of the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance, deliver's the organization's annual report at KEDA's monthly meeting Wednesday.

HANCOCK — Among the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance’s (KEDA) 2017 activities was helping the Copper Country cultivate networks with Finland.

With the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce and Finlandia University, it hosted visits by the Finnish ambassador to the U.S. and Finland’s consul general.

“Those are people who want to build a relationship because that’s where we can start to develop connections with and opportunities for attracting investment from Finland,” Executive Director Jeff Ratcliffe said in his annual report Wednesday.

Local companies have also been recognized. At the state’s annual leaders program in Lansing, Vollwerth & Co., Van Straten Bros. and Xeratec were named three of Michigan’s 50 companies to watch.

Infrastructure developments included completing a $60,000 airpark sewer study, receiving a $80,000 Rural Development grant for $243,000 in repairs to the airpark sewer line and working with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community on the lease process for the Ojibwa Industrial Park.

KEDA also pitched SkyWest on submitting an Essential Air Service proposal through Delta Airlines and Minneapolis. Mesaba Airlines formerly flew from Houghton to Minneapolis until 2010, when it left the market. SkyWest will continue two flights a day to Chicago through Feb. 1, 2020. But Ratcliffe said he will continue to seek a change.

“We also have communicated with Delta, and we’re going to increase that followup because at this point, the reports right now is it’s not necessarily going to get better in overall service,” said.

There were a number of redevelopment and stabilization projects, including a $43,800 stabilization project in Calumet.

Projects to develop and attract talent included KEDA’s Skilled Trade Scholarships for high school seniors, direct assistance to dual-career couples moving to the area and obtaining a $2,500 grant to fund the Copper Country Intermediate School District’s videos highlighting career and technical education in the Keweenaw.

KEDA also partnered with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Army Corps of Engineers and other groups in the effort to mitigate stamp sand encroachment on the Traverse River Harbor and Buffalo Reef in Schoolcraft Township.