SmartZone, health care driving local economy

HANCOCK – Four city and village leaders discussed their steps in revitalizing their communities during Wednesday’s Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance meeting.

Speaking Wednesday were Hancock City Manager Glenn Anderson, Calumet Village Administrator Rob Tarvis, L’Anse Mayor Pro Tem Leann Davis and Houghton City Manager Eric Waara.

Anderson said the growth in research at Michigan Technological University and associated organizations such as the MTEC SmartZone has brought millions of dollars to the local economy. The investment of local health care organizations has also brought jobs to the area, and ensured access to care, he said.

Anderson also noted the influx of young professionals to the area, as well as the growing importance of silent sports in attracting visitors and residents.

“The 32 miles of ski trails in Copper Harbor is probably the best thing we can do,” he said.

Tarvis said there’s enormous potential for the village’s downtown, including two buildings which are being rehabilitated. The village is also working on cleaning up dilapidated buildings through its blight ordinance.

The village’s centrality in the peninsula could make it a hub for people, he said.

“We’re hoping to turn it around, and the right people are slowly coming into place here,” he said.

“I think the future’s bright, especially for young entrepreneurs that are starting out who don’t have much money. Property’s affordable right now.”

Davis touted the scenery of the area, such as Mount Arvon, as well as its manufacturing base and local events.

Waara said MTU and the SmartZone have benefitted Houghton, as well as all local communities. And like the rest of the area, Houghton has built up the amenities, both in retail and in parks/recreation, to provide a lifestyle “in between urban and rural,” Waara said.

“We get to live where people go on vacation,” he said. “That’s really something we’ve got to push in this area to attract people and keep people.”