ISHPEMING - Bell Hospital and Cliffs Natural Resources celebrated Monday the completion of the $2 million pledge the Cliffs Foundation made to the construction of the new hospital building.
The foundation made its final $400,000 installment of the pledge in December of 2011, completing the significant capital campaign that helped finance the construction of the $7 million new facility.
"As we looked at it, it was really an opportunity to build a relationship," said Dale Hemmila, Cliffs director of public affairs in North America.
Hemmila said having a quality health care institution near the Empire and Tilden mines that make up Cliffs Michigan Operations is a win-win situation, giving training and care options for Cliffs' employees and helping the company to reduce health care costs.
"It's a relatively small community. I think we're very very fortunate to have this facility located here," he said.
The $2 million donation, paid over five years, provided essential momentum in the early stages of planning for the new hospital, said Bell Hospital Foundation Executive Director Ruth Solinski.
"It was certainly a significant contribution with great momentum," Solinski said. "This really took us to the place where the (new) hospital was possible."
The hospital and Cliffs celebrated the completion of the pledge with a luncheon at the hospital's Empire Room Monday.
Hemmila said he was initially approached in 2006 by Dave Holli and Bill Stream, two members of the hospital's foundation board, regarding a pledge to help with the hospital's construction after the project had received pledges in the range of $100,000.
"Cliffs Foundation had never done a seven-figure contribution," Hemmila said. "We talked about it a little bit and we came back... I think the hospital really stepped up at that point and said 'yes, we want to build a relationship.'"
During his comments at the lunch, Hemmila said the current cooperation between Cliffs and the hospital is based on historic cooperation between the two organizations.
"It really made sense, not only because it was the right thing to do, not only because it would impact the community the way it has, but also because of the long-term history we have with the hospital," Hemmila said.
Cliffs constructed the first hospital in Ishpeming, as well as helped to finance the original Bell Hospital building in 1917.
"It's humbling to think of what your contribution has meant to us over the years," Solinski said, addressing Cliffs representatives at the luncheon.
Durning her remarks, Solinski detailed new programs at the hospital, including the Strength From Within scholarship program for area middle schoolers and the hospital's community garden, as well as the facility's growing customer and patient satisfaction ratings.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.