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Talent & education

Poverty in paradise:

Two Michigans gaze across a widening gap

The buildings of Bay Harbor, a luxury mixed-use community, overlook Little Traverse Bay on the site of what was once the Penn-Dixie cement plant. The plant closed in the early ‘80s, and the site was developed years later. (Bridge photo by John Russell)

The buildings of Bay Harbor, a luxury mixed-use community, overlook Little Traverse Bay on the site of what was once the Penn-Dixie cement plant. The plant closed in the early ‘80s, and the site was developed years later. (Bridge photo by John Russell)

First of two parts

Pure Michigan is shining under bright sunlight on this cold winter day. On the slopes of Boyne Mountain, skiers and snowboarders carve their way downhill. In the nearby Gaslight District of Petoskey, servers steam milk for lattes or pour craft beers with winking names like Trophy Wife Blonde or Cabin Fever. It’s the slow season for sure, but the Up North paradise at the tip of the lower peninsula still draws visitors and their bulging wallets.

A few miles away in Alanson, the Church of the Nazarene is about to open its doors for the weekly food distribution. Volunteers gather in a circle to pray before admitting those who’ve come for a box of donated groceries. The line has begun to wrap around the wall of the multipurpose room.

Pastor Catherine Greenhoe looks at the people in sweatpants and shabby overcoats, some holding laundry baskets to carry home their cans and boxes.

“It never seems to get shorter,” she sighs. “Just longer.”

Those in need of assistance line up for a free food box at the Alanson Church of the Nazarene. The problem has grown more acute in recent years, its pastor says. (Bridge photo by John Russell)

Those in need of assistance line up for a free food box at the Alanson Church of the Nazarene. The problem has grown more acute in recent years, its pastor says. (Bridge photo by John Russell)

On the shores of two Great Lakes, two Michigans are pulling away from one another. For one, graceful summer homes rise on waterfronts, equipped with boats, tubes and toys. For the other, life is lived in trailers on back roads, or small houses tucked into the woods. One comes north in May and enjoys a summer of festivals, fun and restaurant dining. The other Michigan lives here year-round and waits tables or changes hotel beds. One is, like the state at large, recovering from the recession and building wealth. The other slips deeper into, or closer to, poverty.

Three counties ‒ Charlevoix, Emmet and Cheboygan ‒ sit at the tip of Michigan’s mitten, looking out on glistening waters, looking in on a restless, largely invisible population still grappling with unsteady wages and the haunting sense that opportunity ‒ at least, for them ‒ has passed. Solutions do not come easily for thousands of such families, as they labor in the shadows of a tourism economy that comes out to play only a few months a year.

In this series, Bridge chronicles the journey of workers, business owners, students, families and community leaders in the three counties. In the process, we hope to look beyond the frustrations and traps of life on the margins and consider policies and programs, both inside and apart from government, that offer promise when working hard is not enough.

The view from above

Those at the top rank among the wealthiest in Michigan.

Median income for the top 5 percent of households in tourist- rich Charlevoix and Emmet counties is well above the average in the rest of the state, according to the Census Bureau. The poorest, those in the bottom 20 percent generally are faring better than their peers elsewhere in the state. But the gap between the top and the bottom, in Charlevoix, Emmet and Cheboygan County is among the widest in Michigan.

April Keller remembers when she was hired at American Spoon Foods 15 years ago. She was 25, had recently become a single mother, and was working as a cook at a bar/restaurant in the area. She was earning $6.75 an hour and worked nights and weekends, standard for restaurant work. When she was hired at American Spoon, a Petoskey-based purveyor of expensive jams and preserves, earning $9 an hour for regular daytime hours, no weekends, and year-round, she figured she’d lucked out.

“Prior to that I had entry-level jobs, worked for minimum wage, the kind of jobs you do when you don’t have a degree,” said Keller, who eventually worked her way up to co-managing production at American Spoon. That’s the way it is for people like her, she added; many in her extended family would be considered working poor, and simply expect seasonal jobs and regular layoffs.

“You have to do more than one (job) to get by,” she said.

A faster slide

In Charlevoix-Emmet-Cheboygan, more people are tumbling into poverty even years after the depth of the economic downturn. The conditions aren’t extreme when considered against the rest of Michigan ‒ in comparison, Emmet’s poverty rate is low and Charlevoix’s is average, though Cheboygan’s is far higher.

But poverty in Emmet and Charlevoix has grown faster than the average among all Michigan counties since 2009. The ratio of Emmet and Charlevoix families with children living in poverty increased by one-third in that four-year period. In Cheboygan, poverty had risen 10 percent by 2013 with 26 percent of families with children in poverty.

Seasonal Swings in Unemployment (2001-2014)

Hover over the graph to show data

And, as Keller well knows, seasonal work sometimes means no work at all ‒ the average March unemployment rate spikes to more than 18 percent in Cheboygan County, and to nearly 12 percent and 13 percent in Charlevoix and Emmet counties, respectively – stark reminder of why it’s called the “slow season.”

The three counties lost 3,603 jobs in manufacturing, construction and natural resources between 2000 and 2013, according to an analysis of federal Bureau of Labor Statistics supplied by Scott Gest, regional planner for Networks Northwest, a 10-county planning body. In the same period, 2,272 jobs were added in services, including 573 in leisure and hospitality, which are far more likely to be seasonal, he said, and by definition, part-time.

Manufacturing plants like Continental Structural Plastics in Petoskey and Dura Automotive in Antrim County closed in 2007 and 2008, respectively, taking with them 400 jobs. With few alternatives, idled workers either left the region for better prospects or fell into long-term unemployment or underemployment.

More ominous, the region could be facing a less robust economic future as young professionals look for work elsewhere. The Charlevoix-Emmet-Cheboygan region lost a staggering 22 percent of people in the coveted 25-44 age group between 2000 and 2013.

Justin Rashid, who founded American Spoon, the company that saved April Keller from the minimum-wage merry-go-round, said he understands why some people leave.

“When people lose a job in northern Michigan, they fall out of a treehouse – often they have to move,” he said. “It’s not, ‘I lost my job, I’m going to work at a different place across town,’ it’s ‘I lost my job, I’m going to Grand Rapids. Or Chicago.’”

Yet the solution is not always as simple as “just add jobs.”

Even as some workers leave, manufacturers like surgical instrument maker Precision Edge Inc. in Boyne City and DCL in Charlevoix, which makes dust control and loading systems, say they have good, well-paying jobs they can’t fill for lack of qualified skilled-trades employees.

Transportation can be another barrier to employment. For workers, particularly at the lower edge of middle-class wages, who live miles from their jobs, the cost of commuting can eat a large chunk of their budget. It is an especially critical obstacle in Emmet County, which lacks a robust transit system.

And looking into the future, children attending schools in the counties’ rural districts face twin obstacles ‒ poverty at home and tight budgets in the classroom ‒ as they study to meet the challenges of a competitive job market.

A view of the bay

In some sense, much of this is nothing new in a region of nearly 85,000 people spread out over more than 3,000 square miles. Resort areas have always had seasonal economies. Rural areas have always had fewer job opportunities. That’s the price residents pay for glorious summers by blue bays and the chance to be paddling a kayak down a river 15 minutes after punching out of work.

The streets of downtown Petoskey are packed with boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants and other businesses, many catering to the area’s tourists. (Bridge photo by John Russell)

The streets of downtown Petoskey are packed with boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants and other businesses, many catering to the area’s tourists. (Bridge photo by John Russell)

But with fewer year-round jobs available that allow a middle-class standard of living, the gap in these counties may only grow.

Consider, for example, the schools.

According to the Michigan Department of Education, rural Inland Lakes Schools in Cheboygan County spent about $8,500 per pupil in 2012-2013. About 20 miles due west, the more affluent Harbor Springs School District spent over $12,000 per pupil, allowing its students to learn in smaller classrooms, among other advantages.

About 60 percent of Inland Lakes students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch, a common measure of poverty, and the districts sends just over half its students to college. Harbor Springs’ poverty rate is half that of Inland Lakes; and Harbor Springs sends more than 8-in-10 of its students to college.

Glimmers of change

Still, amid economic challenge, there are some blueprints for progress, including some not so far away. Consider:

Just outside Onaway, a town of about 900 residents in Presque Isle County, Tom Moran, owner of Moran Iron Works, was having trouble finding qualified welders for his growing business in Cheboygan County. A custom fabrication firm, its recent contracts include a $4 million order from Shepler’s Ferry to build a new ferry to Mackinac Island and a $50 million project for Consumer’s Energy to build a greenhouse-gas reduction duct. “They’re just not teaching this in the schools,” he said.

So last year Moran spent more than $1 million to open the Industrial Arts Institute in Onaway, an all-day, 15-week training program that teaches all aspects of welding. Fifteen students graduated in November. All got jobs.

Networks Northwest, the planning body that includes Emmet and Charlevoix, is planning this year to launch a $3,000 scholarship skills training program for 25 high school students, largely funded by a $65,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. It will combine high school career technical training with community college class work and internships with area employees.

The Northern Lakes Economic Alliance, a business support group based in Boyne City, operates a mobile computer-controlled machining training lab, with 12 work stations, that can be driven to companies to train employees and high schools to bring students into 21st-Century entry-level manufacturing jobs.

A few young professionals who left have returned, determined to forge a place in this region’s future. They include a former dance instructor who returned to buy a small bookstore in Harbor Springs, now flourishing, and a former ski racer and employee of the 2008 Obama campaign who came back to start an Internet business incubator.

At a crossroads

There is a common refrain among many of the young in this region: I like it here, but I may have to leave.

Danielle Wager, 30, was born and raised in Charlevoix, graduating from Charlevoix High School and Grand Valley State University with a degree in education. She was hired in 2007 to teach social studies at Charlevoix High School but was laid off in 2009 amid budget cuts.

The Wager family

The Wager family

The Charlevoix resident finally found work helping clients determine if they are eligible for welfare with the Michigan Department of Human Services, while her husband, Kreg, works as a child protective services specialist for the state. They have a daughter, Nila, 2, a mortgage and a tight budget on their $75,000 joint income.

“I have been looking for a teaching job ever since I was laid off,” Danielle Wager said. “We’re at the point where we are thinking of leaving the area or leaving the state. It’s just so hard to find a good-paying job here, especially for someone who has an education.

“We both grew up here. My husband is a big skier and snowmobiler. We love the small-town feel without being tiny.

“But,” she asked, “can we afford to stay?”

162 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. Adrianne Reilly

    I like the solution of Tom Moran, who couldn’t find qualified welders: Open up a welding school. Rather than lament the lack of qualified workers, he found an ingenious solution. Would that there were more entrepreneurs like him.

    1. Betty

      I, too, appreciate his entrepreneurial spirit. But, with all the money invested in our educational systems, why aren’t those experts coming forth to train workers? Most community colleges have always had welding and other technical programs. Where are they when needed?

      1. Linda Glotfelty

        They have been discontinued. “Why?”… the forever-asked question…

    2. Cary

      There used to be shop ‘apprentices’. But when you kill the unions, you kill the good jobs and futures.

      1. Tyna

        Unions made this country strong for many years. But the rich got greedier and convinced the people the unions were bad. It’s a sad situation now. A horrible way to learn a lesson.

        1. Dave

          Technology wiped out the unions so did Union corruption ! do not just blame greed !!!

    3. Sophia Kugeares

      I too applaud Tom Moran. Now others should follow his lead. Its the gooold-fashioned Apprentice concept. As a Language Arts teacher, I’ve fough a losing battle with FL high schools to offer technical writing for starters, and expand into trade-related courses and programs such as those created by Moran. This is common practice in Europe and Asia.

  2. Michelle

    I will be anxious to have you actually come to Paradise, Michigan to do this story. There is no shopping mall in the U.P., and only 2 escalators. Reconcile that with Ann Arbor and Lansing. The U.P is an underdeveloped paradise – waiting for attention.

    1. Carol

      I couldn’t agree more. Curious as to why the articles stopped at the bridge. All the problems you relate go double in the eastern UP and most other counties in the UP as well. These are hard-working, resourceful people who often work several jobs when they’re available. Tourism and logging aren’t enough.

      1. Mr. Reality

        My recommendation would be for those hardworking people to relocate to places with jobs. Don’t give people false hope of economic development that will never come. Help them find true opportunities in places that need workers.

        1. 5th-generation UP

          Not that easy to leave when it’s the land your grandparents bought with GI paychecks sent home during WWII, and the community that held fundraisers for your scholarship to community college, and the extended family that means you have a cousin in every third U.P. town. Leave for a job with a company that doesn’t know me or my family? Live in a city where my kids might have the latest clothes, but they never see their grandparents? Not much of a trade off for a “steady job” and some extra money. Rather chop some more wood and McGyver-rig the truck so it runs another winter, and be thankful for what I have, which isn’t measured in the size of a paycheck.

          1. Marcee

            You,5th Generation Up, are truly blessed!

          2. Big T

            5th G UP,
            I read that you have a hard time leaving a farm that was made possible by your ancestors who left the UP to pay for it. There’s a message here.
            It’s no secret that many in the UP live there despite employment opportunities, or lack of. The pride of rugged individualism, living away from the “rat race”, having room to roam, all come at a cost, a cost that has to be weighed against the urbanization of “paradise”.

          3. Monika

            I have to agree with you. Making more money at the expense of leaving family and community who has been there for you is not an option. Trying to find and do something that will bring in extra income and get businesses to come to your area would be ideal. Get a government in Michigan that will help to create a better business climate, but not at the expense of the workers. Hope things work out for you and your family.

          4. alicia

            Great response

          5. Todd

            Well said. The old of argument of ” just leave” is a lame cop-out.

          6. Peter

            Very well said.

          7. jim

            My heartfelt congratulations and hopes you never have to leave

          8. Long Hauler

            I understand where you’re coming from. My daughter is the 7th generation in my family to live in Charlevoix county – and my family network is a huge part of what keeps us afloat.

            From having family babysitters so we don’t have to pay for childcare, to renting-to-own from my grandpa – living near family has provided us with assistance and opportunities that most people our age, in our income bracket couldn’t dream of.
            However, sometimes we dream of moving closer to the action of a city, a place where we could bicycle everywhere, where people are more open minded – we are in our 20s, after all. But this seems like an impossible thought without the family assistance that we have here, and it would never be right for me to sell this property to some random person.
            However, obligation is not the only thing keeping us here. In this place, our daughter can play outside, explore the forest, and build snow forts with no fear of strangers. We are able to keep goats and chickens here. There is no bustle, no zooming vehicles, no light pollution – just trees, stars, cows. We have a small tight-knit community of friends – we get together for crafting, canning, hikes, pot-lucks, and all sorts of rad stuff. My family comes together every spring to taps trees and make maple syrup.
            These things are priceless.

            My partner and I have also been lucky enough to find decent wage employment from upstanding local employers – but our income, by no means, allows for extravagance.

            I am grateful for my family network and community in this area – and extremely proud to claim such a long history here.

            To those of you with a “just move away for better opportunity because money” opinion – you are the people that I stay here tucked in the woods to avoid.

          9. Frances

            You go where the jobs are. My grandparents left their home, family and country to come to the United States for Jobs. These people are complaining about having to leave their Home towns? Go where the jobs are, don’t expect the Government to feed you.

          10. Marty

            Well said. It’s a tough trade off. For sure.

          11. Cathy H.

            Thank you for sharing, you definitely have your priorities right! Making a conscious decision of where you place value, despite the difficulties life may bring, you’re teaching your children and family what is most important. Not that my opinion matters, I just wanted to tell you that I admire and respect you.

        2. Diane

          Dear Mr. Reality. So if no jobs,just move,leave your whole life,family friends. And if you are one of the working poor how do you manage to move,get a new place to live? Hire or rent a truck to take your belongings with you..? Clearly you are not poor.

          1. Left Paradise

            I left 20 years ago! Although I had a house full of furniture and closet and dresser full of clothes, I left with a bag barely bigger than a briefcase. I’m by no means rich today, but I don’t hurt for anything. My house is now paid for, so are my two vehicles, two motorcycles and a hand full of toys! I love my family and miss them much, but I couldn’t live in the those conditions then and won’t today or put my children through that kind of “rough life”.

          2. grady

            Only problem is, past generations have done it, often with less and greater hardships. Be in moving out west (this has happened several times) or to Michigan from the south looking for auto plant work, or even from Michigan to the south for the same.

            There comes a time when you have to do what is best, not stick around because that is where you are from. The former help build build the middle class … the latter idea of staying put and whining is keeping it from succeeding

        3. F. U.

          Cool, so I guess you’ll be here looking after my aging mother then?
          You can just go ahead and send all your information….please be prompt, I’d like to move to one of these places you spoke of with the great economy. The places who welcome outsiders into high-paying jobs. Anyway, thanks for the great solution to my problems, and thanks for volunteering to look after mom while I’m away working.

        4. Sarah G.

          To Mr. Reality: Are you Donald Trump in disguise? You obviously have no idea how life is lived in our Northern Michigan towns, or our unique UP. I challenge you to trade places with me for a day & then we’ll have a real chat about things that matter.

        5. Ruu

          Moving takes money. And a vehicle. Not everyone has that, especially if you are in poverty.

          Also: college degrees and education do not mean you will get a good job. I know plenty of folks with one or more degrees (two and four year colleges) stuck working multiple low paying jobs.

        6. Laurie S

          Except that there are jobs in these areas and if you look around town, there are signs everywhere…Hiring. Pay is below a living wage, and there’s very little options for renting a place to live. The rentals are summer homes where people want $1500 plus per week during the summer months. Some will rent for less in the off season, but then the off season renter cant afford the rent when the employers need the workers. Moving away to a more lucrative area is a good idea, but it doesn’t solve the problem. The area needs workers that are willing to wait tables, manage restaurants and shops, pump gas, etc. And they need places that are affordable for those workers to live. My son works at large organic farm in Suttons Bay. He was lucky enough to rent the one house in Suttons Bay from a property owner that is willing to forgo the big summer rental money to supply a place to live for the workers that serve the wealthy vacationers and feed the community. Those types of property owners are few in number.

        7. Cot America

          It has always been this way. The Great Lakes region has always been the summer playground of the more affluent. Year round residents have always either embraced this reality and lifestyle, or moved to where more opportunities exist. Nothing new here.

      2. Big D in Cvx

        Carol: The analysis “stopped at the bridge”, because there isn’t the huge presence of summer “one-percenters” (sic) in the U.P. to support the “Income Inequality” meme. Charlevoix/Emmet/Cheboygan is blessed with the summer crowd, which adds dramatically to the local economy. There is also a smaller influx of skiers in winter. Seasonal work trumps no work. There are also a huge number of modestly affluent folks who chose to retire here, and contribute immensely to the economy (and to the charitable support systems).

        That said, the article did note some bright spots. Entreprenuers who can avoid the seasonal swings do well here. There are a lot of folks in “poverty” (as defined by the federal govt), who have a homestead, are proud and manage just fine. Without a “struggle”.

        I wish more people weren’t preoccupied with promoting envy and focussed more on sound market-based economic development.

        1. MighiganMom

          Yours is the best comment on this article. What, exactly, does income inequality measure? Who cares if my neighbor makes 10 times what I do? What matters is can I house, feed and clothe my family. My neighbor’s income has no direct impact on what I earn, so why should I care?

          There was a utopian time in America for those worried about income inequality. It was a time when the US had the lowest rate of income inequality in our history. For most Americans this time was no utopia but a hellish time that no one would like to see again. Yes, I’m talking about the Great Depression. When times are bad we have less income inequality. Why would anyone suggest that it is a good measurement of the economy?

          The only purpose of measuring income inequality is to create resentment and jealousy of the “Capitalist Class”. It is a useless leftover from Marx.

          1. MighiganMom

            That was a reply to Big D

      3. Melanie

        I think they stop there Carol because of the big money people that own homes there. I’m from Munising where people also survive on the tourist trade and even though there are wealthy people in town, it hasn’t been the problem that you see in Grand Marais for example where people rent their houses to the wealthy but seasonal help cannot afford to stay there. The same thing has been happening in West Branch on the inland lakes forever.

    2. Mr. Reality


      Pretty easy to reconcile, no jobs, no money, no reason for a mall or any other development. The best thing for people who want those things is to move to where those things already exist.

    3. kevin

      that’s not true theres a mall in the soo xalled station mall yet its a mile from the river

      1. Yoopergal

        But that’s in Canada. I drive 2 hrs to T.C for mall shopping but I like it that way :)

    4. Deb

      There is at least one mall in the U.P.: the Westwood Mall in Marquette. There are several empty storefronts within, but new businesses are filling some of those spaces.

    5. Vicki

      My best friend lives in Paradise, and while it’s a nice place to visit, I could never live there. There us nothing. I don’t even like the shopping in the Soo. The only place I Could live would be Marquette, where I lived when I went to Northern in 1974-75. That is a cool place to live. I would live there again if my husband would agree to it. He went to Tech, but he hates the cold even here in Muskegon, so don’t think I’ll ever get to live in Marquette.

    6. jarod D

      yeah the upper peninsula is very undeveloped…but the cost of living up there next to nothing. Property values are next to nothing up there as well. I went to school at michigan tech and was up in the UP for years and its amazing but everyone is forgetting the key fact of this article. The reason there is such a pay discrepancy is because there is NO white collar jobs or industries other than tourism in these areas. I’m from Petoskey and have had this talk with my wife….if you don’t own your own business or are in the health care profession your never going to make enough money to live in this area due to the cost of living.

    7. Janis cuellar

      I’m from owosso Michigan living in Texas, My husband would love to live in Pardise Michigan, it’s beautiful there, we don’t know if we could afford housing there.

    8. Trevor Paulus

      There’s a mall in the U.P.

      I lived about two minutes away from it while I was enrolled at NMU…

    9. cary

      The key word is ‘paradise’. Be careful what you ask for. You don’t want malls, mega stores etc. You have Utopia.

      1. Madge

        Ohhhh….so great is finding that balance between our wants and our needs. The UP is an undiscovered Cape Cod. It will survive and thrive but probably not in my lifetime unfortunately. My heart is in Michigan

  3. ***

    I’ve driven M68 from the freeway east to Rogers City a number of times and the poverty is not hard to see, little towns like Tower and Afton are just depressing to look at, I have often wondered what do people up here do for a living? Its no surprise that young people are leaving, relatives in Rogers City say that many of them see no future up there.

    1. Jeremy

      I grew up in Tower and went to school in Onaway. I decided to enlist in the army and went off to basic training the shortly after I graduated. After my initial three years I left the army and returned home. I spent months looking for a job, finally lansing a seasonal job at UPS in Petoskey. The gas I used ate up half my paycheck. After nine months out of the army I signed back up. I’ve been in for 11 years now and I have access to so many opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I remained in the area.

      I’m recruiting out of Traverse City now and I often enlist young men and women from small towns like Mancelona, Bellaire, Elk Rapids and more. Many high school kids want to get out of here so they don’t get stuck and end up a struggling parent of three, trying to support them by working for years at the local gas station. People will keep leaving unless good, entry-level jobs become more plentiful. Until that happens I’ll keep doing my best to remove young people from these communities and provide them the opportunities they deserve.

      1. david zeman

        Incredible perspective, Jeremy, thanks for sharing it.

        David Zeman
        Bridge editor

  4. marc

    “In the old days”…. Employers routinely would train HS grads to teach the skills they needed. Why now, do the “Job Creators” need government to do it for them? Hats off to Tom Moran for finding a private sector solution!

    1. Carol

      Each one teach one is a great idea, but when the business barely sustains one or two employees, the time and investment necessary to train a young person to the point where he or she can be useful and not break the machinery can be prohibitive.

  5. Vince

    Hats off to Tom Moran! He has been well known as a honest, hard working business man! A very smart one too! We are lucky to have a man of his stature in Northern Michigan who actively invests in the area! We need more like him!

    1. carolyn

      It is not free for students with Tom Moron. Just talked to someones son doing it and they are paying $12,000.00 for the program.

      1. Big T

        I hope that you’re not expecting it to be free. And it’s Moran, not Moron.
        $12,000.00 is a small investment in one’s future. If someone is motivated they’ll find a way to pay for it.

        1. greg

          I agree, this is a small investment in learning a life time career. It will pay off. Thank you for setting up a great hands on education for our area.

        2. Traci

          $12,000????? OMG WAHHHHH…..I paid $15,000 for Cosmetology school in Traverse City. I’m pretty sure welders will have a larger income upon graduating….smh

      2. Dorie

        12,000.00 for 10 weeks? Ludicrous! My son learned how to be a welder on line.

        1. jarod

          Great your son learned how to be a welder online. But I’m sure this course takes you through hands on training and on top of that certification requirements. I can watch a youtube video on how to weld but its more of an art than a trade skill as being a good welder takes time and practice and someone to actually say thats a good weld. If you just want to learn how to spot weld thats great but you won’t be qualified to be a welder and get paid. I paid 65,000 for my engineering degree and am now paying over 100,000 to change major to a health care profession that will pay 130,000 a year. … if 12,000 is too much to invest in your education over the next 50 plus years then don’t be surprised if you can’t find over a $10 an hour job.

          1. Ron

            Welders are some of the highest paid skilled trades jobs. I bet one can make $80k in their first year.

            $12,000 sounds like a bargain to me.

  6. Mark Swanson

    Lived in Manistee for 10 years. Moved near Ann Arbor for jobs
    and much better schools and opportunities for our kids. No regrets….
    Yes, its beautiful up there, but you can’t eat trees.
    Up North and the UP are better off with fewer people up there anyway.

  7. Hardvark

    Tom Moran did an admirable thing that he needed to do to save his company. If you think about the economics of making such an investment, not many businesses can afford to make that kind of commitment. 15 employees for a million dollar investment, that’s $66,666 each if he keeps them all. Apparently it works with $54 million on the books for Tom but those orders are far and few between in Northern Michigan so don’t think this is any real solution to the problem.

  8. Terrance

    “All got jobs.” Where? What was the entry level-pay? How did they cover the $12,500 tuition? The IAI website lists a consumer loan through the Awakon Federal Credit Union as the only source of tuition financing. Can any of their students actually qualify for a consumer loan? If so, what is the interest rate and the REAL cost of the education? What will be the local and regional opportunities for these new welders to broaden their entry level skill-sets and earn higher wages, or is this just enough “education” to get them stuck in a repetitive, task-based, $9 an hour job just long enough until they become bored, frustrated, and quit, and the next newly skilled employee to be on-boarded? The cycle continuing.

    Kudos to Mr. Moran for providing the capital outlay and the initiative to build a school to solve the need he perceived. What troubles me from a consumer standpoint are the sketchy details in the program flyer regarding what students actually get beyond instruction and class time. A “certificate of completion” means little to an employer with regard to competency and does little to help a person land a job. And “registration with the AWS as meeting the AWS QC11?” What does that mean? Registration is not a certification or credential? Also, “Certified Welding Educators/Inspectors will also provide opportunities to certify in numerous welding processes and provide certification cards to qualifying students.” WHICH processes? Are these “opportunities” included in the tuition? If so, how many attempts does a student get to certify? Who are the employers that are hiring these grads on the back end? What interviewing and employment test skills do students exit with?

    Most students embarking on an entry-level career or education don’t know how to dig deeper to see the value (or lack thereof) of what they will receive in exchange for tuition. Some welding students just can’t weld. Are they assessed at some point and given honest feedback with the choice to continue, or does IAI just accept the tuition and let a student they know has little hope of being a welder continue down a path to nowhere?

    To someone with knowledge in workforce education, on the surface this institute looks to be little more than an overpriced mill for certificates of achievement. If not, they need to show it. An ED with the background of Georgia Abbott cannot come cheap. Neither can having a separate business manager, an institutional effectiveness director, and 4-5 CWI/CWE’s on staff. The ratio is almost 4:1 student to instructor if I understand the model correctly. So what is the student really paying for; administration or the opportunity to learn a trade with a REAL chance at employment and financial growth?

    I know it sounds like it, but I’m not trying to beat up the IAI here; just point out they have a perception problem which they share with nearly all post-secondary institutions. These “schools” should be aware that they need to make the outcomes clear for the not so savvy consumer. Most students embarking on an entry-level career or education don’t know how to dig deeper to see the value (or lack thereof) of what they will receive in exchange for tuition. The school may very well be legitimate and its intentions noble. Put up some numbers. Be very explicit about what students get with an AWS “registration” and “opportunities” that are inclusive and non-inclusive of tuition. It is difficult to tell from the marketing.

    1. Ronald Rocco

      I hope you can share your thinking, ideas and concerns with the Michigan State Department of Education. Employers and students need recognition of education outside normal venues. Thanks for the energy you have already contributed.

    2. Ron


  9. Mr. Reality

    $65,000 grant for 25 students, I see nothing about how the performance of this initiative will be evaluated. Just that everyone is overjoyed that more government money is funneled in to feel good programming.

  10. D. Case

    Tread lightly as you discuss these poor unfortunates who “labor in the shadows” of the wealthy. Many of us choose to live in these “undeveloped areas” because we enjoy the low cost of living; we appreciate that there is no “keeping up with the Joneses” like you’ll find in the cities of Michigan. Of course, enough income to provide for yourself and your family is a necessity. But please, don’t insult us by saying the areas would be improved by a shopping mall. Not having one keeps us from spending our hard earned money on frivolous items.

    Comparison is the thief of joy.

    1. david zeman

      D. Case, thank you so much for your thoughts. I don’t think Bridge was trying to suggest that shopping malls are the cure. That said, I think your perspective is an important one. If you would be interested in writing a guest column, more fully fleshing out your thoughts, we’d be interested in running it. If so, send me an email at

      David Zeman
      Bridge editor

    2. AStephens

      Low cost of living what not what we found. We could shop at the local Glens, and pay at least 30% more for food, or make the 60 mile round trip to Meijer and pay less. And it wasn’t always about keeping up with the Jonses. Dog food? TC or Petoskey. Doctors? TC or Kalkaska. My husband and I lived in the middle of our jobs, but it was 20 miles there and back each day. We both lost our jobs in the area and had to move, but haven’t found that down state living is costing us much more. Our gas bills are down by half, our cars require less maintenance. Living up north when gas was approaching $4 a gallon made life there very expensive.

      1. Shayden

        The cost of living in northern Michigan is significantly higher than many other places in and out of Michigan. Gas is always higher, groceries more costly, utilities more, especially in the winter. It is the end of the line so to speak, therefore the everything costs more because there is limited returns when shipping to northern Michigan. And the UP is even more costly for the same reasons. I lived there for over 20 years and my husband was born and raised there. We left in 2010 and the cost of living where we live is much better. There are more opportunities in this area for young people. I worked white collar and in the tourist industry. My husband was blue collar and went through a plant closing There are benefits to northern Michigan but it is very expensive. I watched the gap between the haves and have nots grow while I was there. Tom Moran’s idea is a great solution and more employers should follow his lead to help fill many needs of the area.

    3. Gina G

      Oh I love that, comparison is the thief of joy…

      I lived in Detroit for 12 years, suburbs of Detroit for another 27 years and then moved west to the shores of Lake Michigan but on the southern end. It is like another world. It has pros and cons. It is tough to find work, commuting long distance is a factor, but I have to say, those commutes might mean I can’t get a big screen TV this year but I had (retired now) a much bigger screen by having to deal with less traffic and getting to notice the beauty around me as I drove my peaceful 30 miles one way. I would take my large mug of hot coffee and head out on back roads often making the first tracks before dawn. You never knew what wonder you would witness that day, might be a huge deer having a Mexican standoff with you on the road, might be the sun shining through the branches of the forest you had to drive through, could be the frost on the trees over a pond that cast a beautiful pinkish purple glow, might be a hawk circling for an early morning meal, these were strange but beautiful sights that I never got to see on my many city/suburb commutes. Maybe it is that I started in the city and ended up here, but all I know is, I appreciate it.

    4. C B

      I chose the UP precisely because of the remoteness, lack of shopping malls, keeping up with the neighbors attitude. I love the sense of belonging and caring in small towns, and the sharing and caring that is old fashioned and lost in most of this country. Please DO NOT think of yoopers as in any way deprived ! The RICHNESS in life here is often missed by those who see success measured by their paycheck.

    5. dave

      D. I think you are not alone in your thinking…Appreciate your comment.

    6. Pameladeville

      Best comment in this thread!

  11. Chuck R

    I enjoyed this article. One part of the story that’s missing is the main/root cause of poverty: Poor personal choices. It’s not all the fault of businesses leaving or poorer school districts. Let’s put the responsibility on the individual, too. If you make the choice to not graduate from high school and bring a child or children into this world before you are prepared to provide fully, without government assistance, you will struggle and your children will struggle. That goes for both males and females. If you bring a child into this world, you should be prepared to work and provide. There is no mention about the personal choices or lack of self discipline that perpetuates generational poverty. There is also a drug abuse problem up here, just like all other places in the country. Drug abuse kills hope, makes people desperate, hurts the whole community. We, as a community, DO need to mentor and offer avenues to learn skilled trades and everyday budgeting/financial skills. I applaud Mr. Moran for his efforts and to others who make an effort to help young people get on their way to stable employment, and it doesn’t matter the skill if it is in demand. There is not a job in the private sector up here that is not necessary, so helping people realize their work is very important to their employer and customers is essential. But, it takes someone to express it. So far as D. Case’s comment, I can completely understand his viewpoint. Many are here to live a simpler life. I don’t miss having a mall in my life. Malls do not interest me. We moved up here 20 years ago so we could exhale. We aren’t part of the top 5% or the bottom 20%. We just are and live accordingly, helping where we can and appreciating the blessings of living Up North.

    1. Kathy

      I concur that personal choices are the key to a satisfactory and happy long term future. There are consequences associated with poor decisions and no amount of government aid can fix them completely. This should be a major theme taught to our children beginning in middle school. They need to learn what it costs to obtain the lifestyle they desire. Are they willing to work 80 hours/week to achieve economic success OR is it more important they have time to hang out with their buddies. All those high income residents didn’t get there by winning the lottery or having a money tree. They got there by being willing to work harder and smarter than their peers. They sacrificed early on to reap the rewards of their efforts. Let’s start teaching this concept to the young people growing up here at the tip of the mitt.

    2. John O

      Astute observations expressed within your comments!! I was intrigued with this entire article, having grown up in Cheboygan County and graduating from Inland Lakes High School in 1965. You are to be commended for expressing your understanding of our society as it is today, and basically how it got in the sad condition it is today.

    3. NaPal

      Poor personal choices is not the root nor cause of poverty. Instead, socio-economic factors are. To imply that people are here for a simpler life implies that they have a choice to do so, and many don’t. It’s important to look at and understand the systemic functions of the area, its history and culture, to fully understand its poverty.

      1. Ron

        You know what the definition of EQUALITY is? It’s having an equal OPPORTUNITY as opposed to an equal outcome. In any region, county, city, state, there will always be those who are more successful than others. The common denominator? ATTITUDE and motivation.

        It’s to the point in many Michigan communities that its so much easier to live on a EBT than to get up every day and go to work. THAT is the mindset, that of generational welfare, that must change. And YES the MEDC needs to go away. There is no reason to be picking industry winners and losers. Put that money back into the general fund and fix the roads. Innovators will still innovate without tax dollars.

    4. Karen

      Choice is definitely a factor! Growing up on a dairy farm with a parent who had an 8th grade education, I clearly remember deciding in the 7th grade that a scrape-by life was not for me. As an educator, I’ve seen far too many kids put their heads down in classes, only interested in who was dissing who on facebook that day. It may be cultural and a learned behavior, but then why did I notice it so young, and why do so many others not? Choice and personal responsibility are factors that society can’t control; I only wish more kids would see the possibilities for themselves and take the steps to achieve them.

      1. Del Munson

        I was a classroom teacher for 30 and a half years!!!!!!!!!!!!! No one put their head on the desk in my class! Why would you admit children sleeping in your class???? Perhaps you are a part of the problem!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        1. Peter

          Del, that comment was really unfair.

  12. Charles Richards

    “Fifteen students graduated in November. All got jobs.” It would have been helpful to know many were enrolled at the beginning of the fifteen weeks.

    The article says, ” Inland Lakes Schools in Cheboygan County spent about $8,500 per pupil in 2012-2013,” while “the more affluent Harbor Springs School District spent over $12,000 per pupil.” I would have liked a detailed breakdown of the discrepancy. As I recall, the difference between the lowest and highest state funding per student is only a little over $1,000. What explains the rest of the difference?

    The article also says, “About 60 percent of Inland Lakes students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch, a common measure of poverty, and the districts sends just over half its students to college. Harbor Springs’ poverty rate is half that of Inland Lakes; and Harbor Springs sends more than 8-in-10 of its students to college.” So 40 percent of Inland Lakes” student are non-poor and the district sends fifty percent of its students to college, while seventy percent of Harbor Springs’ students are non-poor and sends over eighty percent of its students to college. It would be of considerable interest to know what percentage of the non-poor students in each district went to college. In other words, what role does a family’s culture play in a student’s success?

    The article also says that several manufacturers “say they have good, well-paying jobs they can’t fill for lack of qualified skilled-trades employees.” Why? Is it as Mr. Moran says, “They’re just not teaching this in the schools,” ? Have we, in the name of “equality” placed too much emphasis on everyone going to college at the expense of teaching blue collar skills?

    After recounting income statistics for Charlevoix and Emmet counties, the article goes on to say, ” But the gap between the top and the bottom, in Charlevoix, Emmet and Cheboygan County is among the widest in Michigan.” Why? How is the median income of the top five percent relevant to the poverty of the bottom twenty percent? Does the article mean to say that the bottom twenty percent have low incomes because the top five percent have high incomes? Isn’t that an expression of the “peasant mentality” that contends that society is a zero sum game, where one person only has more at the expense of someone else?

    1. Jared

      Harbor Springs is not within the state funding formula due to the unusually high number of affluent (mostly second) homeowners in the area. Because of this, they spend more money, per pupil, than almost any other district. There are other districts that are “out of formula”, Glen Lake and Mackinaw City being other examples.

      1. Bethany

        Jared~It’s my understanding that operating expenses for schools are no longer based on property taxes. That changed with Proposal A during Governor Engler’s administration, so schools in affluent areas are no longer “out of formula”. School districts can still pass millages for construction of schools, renovations, etc. Also some districts have private foundations by which donors can contribute money for educational purposes.

        1. R Joseph

          Your information is incorrect. After Prop. A passed, there was a provision that allowed districts which had more “non-homestead” residential property than “homestead” property to keep a certain amount of the difference in collected property taxes. We are close in Charlevoix but not there yet. That is why Harbor get to spend way more per pupil for teaching activities than any other district in our ISD. As for mileages, you can pass them for building projects, transportation and technology, but not to hire or pay for teachers or classroom supplies (other than technology items). With transportation costs, the way we fund our schools is poor, at best.

    2. Mike Watza

      Your ability to recite but ignore content is a concern. And the answer to your question is “yes”.

  13. Ralph Deeds

    There are no panaceas. Effort is needed on a variety of issues–macro-economic, homelessness, mental illness, pre-and post-natal care, drug rehabilitation, public education, police community relations, excessive incarceration for minor offenses, and so forth. In 50-odd years living in the Detroit area I’ve never seen so many homeless individuals begging at intersections throughout the metropolitan area.

    1. John

      Perfect examples of “mother government” trying to remedy the consequences of poor choices, mostly by young folks. Every “issue” mentioned above is the result of careless, selfish people making babies, which turn into people (imagine that!) and dumping the financial responsablilities of raising them on reaponsible folks. Add on top of that a defiant attitude that they have a “right” such financial aid, babies of their own and free health care. The accepted “welfare life” narrative needs to be killed, shunned and swept away. It was born or at least greatly enhanced as a result of Johnson’s naive “great society” programs. If not naive then just selling our future for votes.

  14. Heather

    I would love to see a little information about the numbers in the Eastern Upper Peninsula counties of Luce, Mackinaw, & Chippewa compared the same way to those three counties mentioned in the article. THAT would be interesting.

    1. R Joseph

      Perhaps those numbers would be interesting, but the “Sunrise Side” does not have all the $10 million dollar homes just across the road from all the double wides like we do over here. That is what he is trying to address in this article.

  15. Michael

    75K – Sob! That is a good living wage – how can one actually find that a difficult wage to survive on unless one is living beyond their means…. WOW!

    1. Ben

      I thought exactly the same thing. Maybe they can’t afford new snowmobiles on $75K income.

    2. Lila

      $75,000 and don’t consider that good pay, and hard to get by on?? Get real! I’m a School Bus Driver, 9 months of the year, try for seasonal, and take it when I can, get by best I can when I can’t find summer work. My approximate school wages? Around $15,000. Now that’s hard to get by on. ANd there are a whole lot of people that you wouldn’t even know about just like me. But I love my small town life and wouldn’t it trade it for big city “opportunities” and all the higher cost of living that would go with it.

    3. david zeman

      Hey, can I come to the defense of the couple you guys mention? I don’t think they were sneering at their combined incomes or saying they could barely survive. What they are saying is that they’ve had trouble getting jobs, with one of them already laid off from her teaching job, and have had to make due with other jobs that aren’t necessarily what they want to be doing for the rest of their lives, or at the income that they think they can achieve elsewhere. That isn’t a whiny or ungrateful attitude. To my mind, it’s a young couple that loves this region, but is weighing the benefits of moving somewhere else to provide a better financial future for themselves and their young child.

  16. Larry Meyer

    Lansing community college has an excellent welding program. Perhaps a model for the area.
    Write for more information.

    1. Jackie

      Cost, length of program, guaranteed jobs at completion?

  17. NaPal

    I hope that the second part of the article addresses the impact of having so much wealth near so much poverty, for example, how affordability of restaurants, groceries, and other common goods are affected. Further, how much the economy kowtows to the rich at the expense of the poor. There’s a blindness and disregard to the other half, the half that aren’t permanent residents, who don’t give back. This is their vacationland, not their reality.

    1. david zeman

      Hi NaPal,

      you now have both parts of our series on this region. The issues you raise are certainly alluded to in stories in both parts of this project. But I’m interested in what you’re raising here, and want to hear more on your perspective. If you would like to flesh out your thoughts in a guest column for Bridge, please write me and we can talk.

      David Zeman
      Bridge editor

    2. B. J.

      A lot of those vactioners are former residents who left the area and have now retired and returned! Doesn’t mean they are all wealthy, but perhaps have saved and planned for retirement. They certainly contribute to the economy!

    3. Linda

      I have similar thoughts… how much to “second-home” non-residents or vacationers contribute– or take–from the communities they enjoy part-time? I have a small “vacation home” (not in prime Northern MI area); I pay taxes, of course, but don’t vote in local elections and don’t really understand local community concerns. I don’t support much local economy except via taxes — everything costs way more than in the Detroit area.

  18. NewGirl4you

    It doesn’t mention the part about how the people that do get hired in the summer quit as soon as they are able to collect “underemployment” from the government. Nor does it mention the hundreds of Russians and Jamaicans that are shipped in to work in the towns and on the island because the residents don’t want to work. They’ve become accustomed to living off of the government.

    1. Jackie

      The unemployment is only available if you have worked in at least four of the last five quarters. The imported laborers only have employment for four/five months–no benefits, and of course never qualify for unemployment.

    2. ***

      Back in the 1980s I was in Mackinaw City and went into some souvenir shop and the person behind the counter had come from Poland for the summer to work at that job. I think they had some program at the time for seasonal workers from other countries to come in, I’m not sure if they still do this or not but it seemed kind of unusual to me. Were there not enough locals to fill those jobs?

  19. Judge Brennan

    I would be interested in seeing a survey which shows what relationship there may be between poverty and broken homes. Historically, children learn their work ethic from their parents, and frequently learned their trade or occupation from their parents as well. There is no tuition, no student loans, no academic failure in family training. The people who settled those counties one hundred and fifty years ago lived off the land and built with their hands. Schools were rudimentary and libraries limited. Today, there is Wikipedia and Google. Learning is the cheapest thing to do. The Northwest Ordinance assertion, which remains part of the Michigan Constitution, tells us “Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary for good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” Our forefathers never dreamed that the means of education could be so cheap and universal.

  20. Cecelia

    I would be interested in seeing more diverse articles. Often people focus on the tourist destinations such as Traverse City or Petoskey. Why not write an article on Benzie or Manistee Counties? Lake County? More diversity in terms of interviewing, GLBTQ population, migrant populations, minorities, People of Color, and the first people of Michigan – the Anishinaabe. I am mixed race and of Anishinaabe heritage. I reside in Manistee. I am young, educated with a Masters degrees, and have my own consulting business. I focus on the most marginalized populations in MIchigan. Wealth disparity is huge in most Northern Michigan communities. But we as Anishinaabe people have a different worldview on dominant culture/mainstream views. My tribe is located way up the the UP. I live in Northern Michigan because it is actually Anishinaabe Aki and my home. I’ve also lived in poverty to live here and dealt with a plethora of discrimination because I am who I am. Imagine how migrant workers feel? How the Anishinaabe feel? How a gay couple feels? How a multi-racial couple feels living in Northern Michigan in poverty, in a trailer in the back back woods… just think outside your box. The bridge needs to bridge these gaps in their stories.

  21. Dr. Unwelcome

    There is another aspect of this economic divide that drives youth away, which I think the comments touch on well. There is a pervasive social divide in a culture that believes dogmatically that poverty is an indication of ignorance and laziness more than lack of opportunity. Why would I want to return to a place that never wanted me? For me, living in a city isn’t just about job opportunity, it’s about cultural diversity and tolerance, both of which were sorely lacking in my childhood. It’s the ability to tell someone my name without having them make snap judgements about my worth. When you grow up being told that you can never amount to anything and then go off to college and see how much bigger the world really is than the small people who tried to make you feel smaller, you don’t want to move back with your degrees, no matter how pretty and peaceful it is. There are plenty of wonderful, educated, forward-thinking people up there, but the people who think the solution to every problem is to shake a finger at the poor and tell them they made bad choices and now they just have to live with the consequences either don’t understand or don’t care how poverty cycles actually work, and being barraged with that sort of judgemental rhetoric left far too bad a taste in my mouth for me to ever want to live there again. I’m not alone. Most of the people my age that I have stayed in touch with have left, and many don’t even want to visit, it’s just too depressing to see such sharp dividing lines between the classes and be reminded that you were one mistake away from being another statistic. You ask why your educated youth are leaving? For those of us who grew up below that arbitrary poverty line, my answer is because (unlike our parents) we can.

    1. ***

      Down in rural poverty areas of Kentucky they have an expression “living outside your upbringing” or something like that
      where they are judgmental of people who leave and make a success of their life, it sounds like something similar going on in parts of Northern Michigan as well. Under those circumstances I couldn’t blame someone for not wanting to come back.

  22. Jackie

    The wages for welders in NW Michigan have fallen in the last eight years. Anyone not burdened with an upside down house equity will wisely look elsewhere.

  23. ken

    if that couple the teacher and her man canot live on 75000 k a yr better find some where to live. I can see or understand some of this rant but seems to me thee cry to much

  24. Geoffrey

    Certainly a lot of divergent views expressed regarding this article. On the one side there are expressions of how frustrating it is to make a living up north, and on the other side many opinions about how the people living in poverty are to blame for being poor. Too many poor choices. Too much government dole. Should just move somewhere and get a real job. The fact is that the upper 5% can use drugs voraciously and not be blamed for being poor. Employers paying minimum wages are using the government to subsidize the working poor and contribute to the cost of our socialization. There is a very real and growing income disparity, not just in these three counties, or in Michigan. Since the economic collapse of 2009 the growth in poverty has been huge, and the growth in the concentration of wealth at the top even greater. If you look at a graph the income growth at the top scales up at about 45 degrees. Yet we blame the poor for our problems and think government spending should be curtailed and taxes cut. How so? If the top 5% paid double the tax rate they are paying their income would still be growing at 22.5%. The bottom 80% are making less than ever before. Personal decisions? Yes we all need to make the right ones. And we also need to invest in every part of our society. Education. Infrastructure. Economic development. Healthcare. Even our roads, God forbid. And those who are benefiting from the best decisions need to pay more and stop complaining about the less fortunate. Chances are, however you make your money, it involves large concentrations of small payments from someone else. If you don’t like socialism, don’t reap the benefits of living in a great society, pack up and move to a small island.You will probably have to rely on someone else making bad choices to bring you food and water.

    1. Jasmine

      Hear hear!

  25. Taryn Branski

    I grew up in Bellaire in Antrim County. After moving to Chicago, and California, I eventually settled back in Michigan, but in Detroit. For me, the lack of opportunities that I had as an honor student made me ache for the day I could move away. Yes, the area is gorgeous. However, the lack of upward mobility and specific opportunities in Northern Michigan made me happier in the Detroit area. Most of my family resides in the Traverse City area. However, most of them are business owners and have inherited their businesses from past generations. This has allowed them the lifestyle that many young professionals have to move away to find. While the area is growing, it isn’t growing at the rate that it is producing young people, yearning for careers that are capable of supporting a stable lifestyle. I can appreciate the hard work and sacrifice that people make in order to live in the area.
    Personally, I am happier in the Detroit area, for I can have the beauty of this state, the excitement of the city, and am mere hours from “home”. I don’t have to look too hard to find a good paying job and have so much at my finger tips. Everyone has their own specific needs and wants and for those who want to live Up North, the cost of stability is much different than those of us city dwellers. It’s a great place to grow up, but in my mind, does not offer enough opportunity for all of us.

  26. Tracey Ryan

    Some large Mfg. companies should slow back on their “Hard Nosed Hiring Requirements” Many of our debunked farming communities such as Cheboygan area has some of the best, and hardest working people around. People can, and want to learn. Start Educational programs, share-a-ride incentives, profit sharing, etc…. make it work people. It can be done.

    1. William

      “Debunked farming communities”… sounds like an opportunity for “sustainable food” to me.

  27. Carl Suvanto

    WHAT ABOUT THE U.P., Are we just invisible to you Trolls ???

    1. Leon L. Hulett, PE

      Carl Suvanto February 22, 2015 at 8:59 am

      I understand, “Trolls ???” as a vulgar term, not as ‘a person from below the bridge.’ Is that what you intended?


  28. Sam

    It is sad that Precision Edge cannot fill those skilled jobs, because they were one of the recipients of the Michigan Strategic Fund for tax abatement.

  29. Paul

    I grew up in Flint in the 60’s my father worked for General Motors we had everything we needed and more. A northern cottage on a lake, cars , boats.. a nice house in Flint, low crime, some of the best schools in the country and great shopping areas.

    All on a middle class income. I sold products to the manufacturing industry here in the 70’s and had pretty much the same lifestyle.

    I saw the downturn coming in the 80’s and moved to southern California and later Nevada and constantly ran into others who had done the same thing

    Of course its more expensive and the traffic is worse, but the i never regretted it.

    The past recession pretty much decimated the middle class. The rich are now just passing on their money to their heirs. I’m pretty sure the young people buying 5 million dollar homes on Lake Michigan didn’t accumulate that money in their short lifespans.

    The only jobs/wealth being created in this country beyond minimum wage are in the Silicon Valley, Hollywood or Washington/ Government/Military. Check the statistics.

    And as for people living off the Government/Welfare there isn’t any of that either. Food Stamps are being phased out. Child Care/ Cash Assistance is nonexistent The only people making money money off the Government Welfare are the “Caseworkers” that run the programs turning people away from assistance. .

    I forgot one area of opportunity the Drugs that support the economy in Flint

    Grim but true….Good Luck :)

  30. Jeanette M Hayes

    You folks need to visit Antrim County where the unemployment rate is well above the national average; where we vary in high income levels around Torch Lake, a mainly seasonal home area, to Mancelona where the Dura automotive plant went south a number of years ago.

    There are two food pantries, a Baby pantry which distributes free clothing, food, diapers birth to age 6 and raises funds for cribs and car seats to keep children safe. We serve a free community meal at my church every Tuesday to 60-90 people.

    The largest employer in Antrim County is Shanty Creek Ski/Golf resort and most jobs are part time, seasonal, minimum wage jobs. We have many Working poor. When income levels area averaged it doesn’t look to “poor” because of the income levels of Elk Rapids and Torch Lake areas.

    What we need in Michigan and every other state is not a minimum wage but a LIVING WAGE for all.

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