Being Part of the Conversation

Posted by on September 19, 2022

If you’ve been following the local news, then you already understand that Marquette County is seeing a significant amount of potential development. From proposals for new housing, roads, hotels, industrial expansions, and more, there’s no denying that Marquette County is attractive to new residents and businesses.

And it is clear why Marquette County is an attractive place to invest. Our natural beauty has always been a draw for those of us who are already here or visit regularly. But our investments in new infrastructure such as high-speed internet and educational institutions combined with climate shifts in other parts of the county and increased availability of remote work arrangements are turning many peoples’ thoughts of moving north into reality. You only need to look at the stories coming from U.P.-based economic development initiatives such as Make It Marquette, Remote Workforce Keweenaw, or even the far western U.P. community of Bessemer to understand the shift is real.

But nearly all change comes with challenges and concerns, and Marquette County communities are not immune to that reality.

Earlier this month, the City of Marquette’s Planning Commission held a five-hour meeting almost entirely focused on one proposed development: a hotel along Lakeshore Boulevard. After hours of public comment, the majority of the Planning Commission determined that the request did not meet the special land use approval standards. That same night, Marquette Township Board discussed a proposed bypass off Forestville Road. While no decision was made, the idea attracted significant discussion, including concerns tied to proposed development in the area. It seems spirited discussions are becoming the norm when new housing or commercial investments are proposed.

Our local processes are built to incorporate public input since new development has a real and perceived impact on the communities we know and love. That review process helps ensure the community develops based on an established plan – in the City of Marquette (for example), that plan already puts in safeguards to avoid “becoming Traverse City” by preserving most existing waterfront property for public use. Most other local governments also maintain master land use plans outlining their own local goals. In fact, numerous Marquette County communities are at various stages of master plan updates, so now is a great time to look up yours and get involved if you aren’t.

In addition to helping build those visions for the future, it is incumbent upon all of us to research and understand how development processes work and the facts behind the proposed projects. Doing so helps local government officials, who volunteer their time, to issue decisions based on facts, not emotions. One great way to learn about this process is to sign up for MSU Extension’s “Citizen Planner” program. We are fortunate to have an in-person version hosted here in Marquette County annually but you can also access it online. Even if you don’t have time for that series, there are many good resources online worth checking out.

The LSCP doesn’t make any decisions when it comes to developments, but we do seek to ensure accurate facts prevail and local processes are followed. That creates predictability, which is investment’s best friend. As always, if you’re interested in learning more about economic development, please reach out. We are a resource on economic development issues for all of Marquette County, and we love serving that role every day.

By Christopher Germain, CEO of the LSCP writes a bi-weekly column for the Mining Journal.