Published April 1, 1997 | April 1997 issue
Gogebic, Ontonagon and Houghton counties in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (U.P.) have been designated as one of 11 state renaissance zones to spur economic development.
With unemployment ranging from about 6.5 percent in the Houghton area to nearly 16 percent in Ontonagon County, all three counties were looking for an economic shot in the arm when they decided to cooperate with the tax giveback program.
Businesses that locate in the zone will have most state and local taxes waived for up to 15 years. Any Michigan or out-of-state company is eligible to locate in a renaissance zone; however, local guidelines will require companies to have the consent of their current government jurisdiction before they are allowed to relocate.
In addition, the three-county North Country Renaissance Zone committee is in the process of establishing some guidelines on minimum pay scales and employment numbers for any new company moving into the zone. "Although we don't want to be so restrictive that we'll turn away companies that really could grow," says Phil Musser, executive director of the Keweenaw Industrial Council in Houghton.
Musser believes that much of the resulting job creation will come from local companies that use the zone for business expansion. "I don't believe the tax breaks are significant enough that companies will pick up and move to the U.P.," Musser says. It's more likely that companies may establish a research and development facility or a branch plant, he adds.
The counties are focusing their marketing efforts largely on groups with some connection to the U.P., such as:
Two sites have been set aside in each of the three counties; five sites are for industrial use and one in Ontonagon County is designated for residential development. While the counties are not targeting specific types of businesses, the region's wood and mineral resources may play a role in just who might be interested in locating in the zone, Musser says.