L'ANSE - The Western Upper Peninsula Planning & Development Region's community-driven Go! Baraga County Strategic Plan is another step closer to implementation.
WUPPDR, which started the process on the plan in the summer of 2012, has refined three strategies, which will be outlined in a final product to be published later this fall.
"This entire process has included the community," said Karyn Olsson, strategic planner, in a Daily Mining Gazette interview. "We started off with the community survey that over 750 community members responded to. ... All of the strategies were driven from that research, and from nine focus groups with community leadership in different sectors."
Olsson said the research for the project is done and the strategy concepts are all in place. Now, the work shifts to finding the specific ways the plan will be implemented.
"I've seen a lot of strategic plans created and they're put in a binder and they sit on a shelf," she said. "My goal was to develop one or two strategies that are feasible and implementable."
Olsson said each idea needs to "have a hero behind it," someone to take it from idea to reality, and in all three cases, she believes the foundation has been laid. The three ideas are summarized as follows from a WUPPDR press release:
Health care: "Encouraging community residents to utilize their local healthcare services is one area with great potential for job creation. It is estimated that Baraga County Memorial Hospital would be able to add 60 new jobs by increasing market share by only 10 percent. This increased employment could provide an additional annual impact of over $2 million in salaries."
BCMH has also recently announced its own strategic plan with growth in mind.
Industrial park: "Baraga County currently has a total of three publicly owned and operated industrial parks. Two of the parks are developed and at capacity, creating an immediate need for commercial manufacturing space."
WUPPDR intends to help the Village of L'Anse, which currently owns an undeveloped 30-plus-acre park near the Bishop Baraga Shrine, seek Economic Development Administration funding to pursue a Class A industrial park.
Fish and Produce Farming and Distribution: "With the growing market demand for local foods, Baraga County is centrally located and ideal for regional food distribution. The business concept being developed includes local food distribution and a self-sustaining food production system that grows fish and produce, including high-value crops such as herbs, through a farming method called Aquaponics."
Jeffery Loman, a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, had expressed concerns with the last strategy in an April 11 Daily Mining Gazette letter to the editor, but Olsson said aquaponics is an indoor farming system (as opposed to the open-water farming in Keweenaw Bay Loman raised as a concern) that combines aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in water). Olsson said several requests to meet with a KBIC biologist had been denied.
A local person with experience in the field is currently working with local business consultants to pursue the idea, which support from the strategy provided by the Michigan Technological University Department of Biological Sciences and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
"WUPPDR feels strongly about these three ideas, each of which has great job creation potential," according to a WUPPDR press release. "Now it's up to the community to make it happen."
For more information on the strategic plan, including full research results from the survey and focus groups, visit gobaragacounty.com, or contact WUPPDR Planner Jerald Wuorenmaa at email@example.com or 800-562-7614, extension 319.