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Saturday, October 18, 2008

MTEC SmartZone receives funds for former UPPCO building renovation (updated*)

By Michele Bourdieu

HOUGHTON -- The former UPPCO (Upper Peninsula Power Co.) Building in Houghton will have a "green" makeover and provide long-term space for the Michigan Tech Enterprise Corporation (MTEC) SmartZone thanks to a $3.02 million U. S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) business incubator grant. In addition, a federal grant of $500,000 awarded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will help establish a new technology development center in this building.

At a ceremony in the former UPPCO Building on Friday, Oct. 17, Robert Sawyer, left, regional director of the Chicago office of the U. S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), presents a giant "check" for $3,020,000 to Carlton Crothers, CEO of the MTEC SmartZone, second from left, and MTU President Glenn Mroz, third from left. At right are U. S. Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) and Amy Berglund, aide for U. S. Senator Carl Levin (D-Detroit). (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

MTEC, a private, nonprofit corporation, manages the SmartZone, which is an economic development and high-tech business incubator serving Houghton and Hancock. The University and MTEC were co-applicants for the federal grant.

Robert Sawyer, EDA regional director of the Chicago office, presented the $3.02 million check to Carlton Crothers of the MTEC SmartZone and Glenn Mroz, Michigan Tech University president, at a ceremony held on Oct. 17 in the former UPPCO Building in Houghton.

Addressing the audience at the ceremony, Mroz thanked the various partners who worked to obtain this award, including U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-Detroit) (represented at the ceremony by his aide Amy Berglund), U. S. Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee), State Representative Mike Lahti and State Senator Mike Prusi, Houghton and Hancock city officials and Kim Stoker of the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WPPDR).

"This is about growth, and it's about the faith that a lot of people have in this community in order to make it grow," Mroz said. "This is where people are going to want to live, because we've got the quality of life."

In addition, Kathy Cole of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) presented the $500,000 check from the State of Michigan to the City of Houghton, noting the new technology development center slated for the renovated UPPCO Building would provide 50 new jobs.

Kathy Cole, representing the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), addresses the audience at the Oct. 17 ceremony in the former UPPCO Building in Houghton and commends Michigan Tech, the MTEC SmartZone, the city of Houghton and State legislators Mike Prusi and Mike Lahti for their cooperation in securing the grant for economic and community development. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Houghton Mayor Eric Peterson accepted the check signed by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.

"We're all successful because of teamwork," Peterson said.

State Representative Mike Lahti (D-Hancock) noted the MTEC SmartZone is an example of what cooperation -- rather than competition -- can do in utilizing student talent to create jobs in Michigan. (See video below.)

State Representative Mike Lahti addresses the audience during the Oct. 17 event celebrating the funding received by the MTEC SmartZone and Michigan Tech for the renovation of the former UPPCO building and the creation of a technology development center. (Video © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Representing U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-Detroit) his aide Amy Berglund said Levin is a senior member of the Small Business Entrepreneurial Committee and is proud to have supported the SmartZone.

"The Senator has always been a very strong advocate for Michigan's small business interests and realizes the significant role that they play in our economy," Berglund said.

U. S. Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee), another supporter of the MTEC SmartZone, spoke about the 700 high-tech jobs that it has created since 2003 and $60 million going into the Houghton-Hancock economy yearly. He added the expectation is that these new grants will bring nearly 355 more jobs to the community.

U. S. Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) speaks at the celebration of the new funding for the MTEC SmartZone
in the former UPPCO Building on Oct. 17. * Update: this video clip added on Oct. 22. (Video © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

"I'm so proud of what you're doing here," Stupak said. "I hope this is the second of many more checks to come as we continue to grow the entrepreneurial spirit here in the Keweenaw Peninsula."

U. S. Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) and State Representative Mike Lahti (D-Hancock), both of whom were instrumental in securing the new funding for the MTEC SmartZone, pause for a photo in the lobby of the former UPPCO Building just before the Oct. 17 ceremony. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Carlton Crothers, chief executive officer of the MTEC SmartZone, concluded with thanks to all the partners involved in making the grants possible.

"It's not just about the SmartZone," Crothers said. "It's about people -- people in this community coming together -- working as one."

Phil Musser, chairman of the MTEC SmartZone Board and executive director of the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance (KEDA), has been involved with the SmartZone and local economic development for several years.

"At the point that we thought to form a SmartZone, this community had already gone from dependence on mining and timber to having a much more diversified economy with the start-up of many small businesses across a number of economic sectors," Musser said.

After the Oct. 17 ceremony in the UPPCO Building, Phil Musser, left, chairman of the MTEC SmartZone Board and executive director of the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance (KEDA), chats with Lisa McKenzie, Hancock City Council member and small business owner, and Don Keith, Keweenaw County Board chairman. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

KEDA's strategy, he explained, has been to grow local companies -- a strategy that now goes under the name "economic gardening." The idea behind it is to encourage businesses that start in the community and stay, rather than importing companies from outside that may leave at some point.

"So by the time we started the SmartZone we already had a strong economic base of manufacturing and service companies and a number of emerging technology businesses (in this community)," Musser added. "In fact, it was the presence of those emerging technology companies around the year 2000 that told us we had an opportunity to create a technology sector and further diversify Keweenaw's economic base."

When the SmartZone began, he noted, it capitalized on the existing economic base and the fact that KEDA already had a high level of partnership through its 200 members. These included businesses, school systems, banks, utilities and municipalities.

"The SmartZone," Musser said, "with its business assistance directed at technology entrepreneurs and businesses, and through its development of small business incubators, has really accelerated the growth of the technology sector in the Keweenaw."

Musser noted also that the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) uses the Keweenaw as an example of how a community can successfully develop its economy.

"The Keweenaw is an important example," Musser said, "because of the economic distress many Michigan communities are now experiencing."

Editor's Note: To learn more about the MTEC SmartZone and KEDA visit their Web site.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hancock City Hall renovations near completion with handicap accessibility

HANCOCK -- Hancock City Hall will soon have two handicap-accessible parking spaces, large enough for vans, as well as a wheel-chair ramp at the front entrance. Construction of this final stage of the City Hall renovation project, begun this summer, has required changing the grade in front of the building for wheel-chair accessibility.

On Oct. 16 workers from J. Clark Construction work on the new handicap-accessible parking spaces in front of Hancock City Hall. A change of grade in the sidewalk will allow wheel-chair accessibility to the front entrance. The project is the last stage of the City Hall renovation project made possible through a Rural Development grant from the U. S. Department of Agriculture. (Photo © 2008 Gustavo Bourdieu)

Hancock City Clerk Karen Haischer said the handicap accessibility part of the project will also include installing an automatic door opening on the main entrance door.

"They'll hopefully have it done for the election," Haischer noted.

A sign in front of Hancock City Hall indicates funding for the renovations on the building comes from a Rural Development grant through the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photo © 2008 Gustavo Bourdieu)

The renovations have included work on the clock tower, the roof and exterior painting -- now complete. This month inside work -- including mechanical, electrical and carpet improvements -- is being done. New lighting in the Council Chambers, a new boiler system and a canopy over the front entrance for safety from ice are some of the improvements included in the project.

Exterior work in particular, including the tower, has been done to conform to the historic aspects of the building.

Hitch Engineering is the architect and engineer for the project; J. Clark Construction, Inc., is the contractor.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Community Arts Center to present OCTOBERFEST dance Oct. 18

HANCOCK -- The Copper Country Community Arts Center again presents OCTOBERFEST -- an evening of music, hearty food, drinks, a silent art auction, 50/50 raffles and tons of dancing! The event begins at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 18, at the South Range Community Hall.

Dancing will be from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. with music by the Polka Drifters from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., followed by the PasiCats from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Brats, hotdogs and vegetarian chili will be available; and the Keweenaw Brewing Company will provide beer.

Bring family, friends and neighbors and support the Arts Center at this fundraising party! Admission is only $5.

Call the Arts Center at 482-2333 for more details.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bienvenido el otoño

October color in the Keweenaw Peninsula. (Photo © 2008 Gustavo Bourdieu.)

Editor's Note:
This is the third in a series of "Comentarios y fotos" by Gustavo Bourdieu, Keweenaw Now photographer, for our readers who speak, read or study Spanish. In this comentario, Gustavo celebrates our change of seasons in a northern climate.

By Gustavo Bourdieu

HANCOCK -- El cambio de las estaciones en Hancock, nos hace sentir en mayor contacto con la vida , con la naturaleza. Los ciclos del año nos van marcando todo el esplendor de lo que nos rodea.

En el transcurso de mi vida he vivido en diferentes latitudes, a diferentes alturas sobre el nivel del mar. Pero las estaciones aquí en el norte del país son marcadas y bien definidas. Cuando viví en Perú -- en el Río Amazonas, a solo cuatro grados de la línea ecuatorial -- las diferencias eran de lluvia o menos lluvia. La temperatura rara vez baja mas de 70 F. Todo eso hace un tiempo un poco mas monótono. Por ejemplo la variedad de maíz dulce allá produce frutos en solo 60 días mientras que aquí la misma variedad necesita 98 dias.

Como decia mi amigo peruano, "¡Viva las diferencias!" Cada región tiene sus encantos.

Buen fin de semana a todos y en especial los que no trabajarán el lunes.

Hasta la próxima,

G. B.