Dickinson area sees economic growth in multiple sectors

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The Dickinson County area, located in the central part of the Upper Peninsula continues to see growth as much of the country comes to a grinding halt. 

This area is known as the Iron Mountain Micropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), and encompasses the market area in and around the cities of Iron Mountain, Kingsford and Norway, including nearby areas in Wisconsin.

Policom recently ranked the MSA at 80 out of 542 similar-sized quasi-rural areas with a population of 10,000-50,000 and an urbanized area. 

In 2017, local business leaders spearheaded the Alliance, a business-first organization dedicated to creating and maintaining new economic growth in the communities in the Dickinson County area.

Since then, the Iron Mountain MSA jumped up 104 slots in the ranking. Iron Mountain MSA is the highest-ranked community in the UP, and third-highest in Michigan behind Traverse City (20) and Holland (58).

This jump in ranking caught the attention of the publication Business in Focus, where they featured the Alliance and their unique approach to economic development through private partnerships. The article appears in their July 2020 issue. 

With the lowest unemployment rate in Michigan at 12.3% as of May 2020, the area’s major employers–Systems Control, CCI Systems, MJ Electric, Boss Snowplow, Lake Shore Systems, Louisiana Pacific, Bacco Construction, and Project Service, Inc., as well as Dickinson County Healthcare System and Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center still have multiple positions to fill. 

Many smaller employers are hiring as well.

Twenty-percent of the area’s workforce is in manufacturing, and many of these manufacturers were deemed essential during COVID Shelter-In-Place orders.

Other employers were able to quickly pivot to allow employees to work from home with very little disruption to day-to-day operations. With low unemployment, we see small business retailers and restaurants coming out of shutdowns stronger because of the community’s commitment to staying “Loyal to Local,” an Alliance program that educates the community on the benefits of spending your money at local small businesses.

In 2020, the Alliance supported our business community in the following ways:

  • Assisted 223 businesses in the first five months of 2020.
  • Researched and distributed countless programs and important information to our business community to assist with the pandemic impacts.
  • Advocated for our businesses and communities to state and federal elected leaders on funding for rural U.P. hospitals and pandemic relief programs.
  • Assisted 70 small businesses in applying for grant and loan funding through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

In May, the Alliance, Lake Superior Community Partnership, and MichiganWorks launched the #KeepUPWorking campaign to raise awareness around the benefits of working during this time of federal government subsidized unemployment benefits.

This is just one of the collaborations born from the increased private sector participation in economic development in the region. 

All of the work we have done the past three years has made the Dickinson Area stronger and able to weather the global pandemic. We are seeing results of the investments made by our business community in economic development and the Alliance.

Lois Ellis

Lois Ellis joined the Dickinson Area Economic Development Alliance as Executive Director in December 2017. Ellis began her career in economic development with the Lake Superior Community Partnership in Marquette County for 12 years and then served as the Business Development Manager for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation covering the Upper Peninsula region for two years.

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