Unreliable Winter Weather Impacts Local Businesses

Winter is a time that we shine in the Upper Peninsula. From skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding to ice caves, sled dogs, and outhouse races, we embrace winter unlike anyone else. Our embrace of a season only tolerated by many others brings significant economic benefits. From filling hotel rooms and restaurants to retail sales and outdoor recreation, our businesses count on the snow and Heikki Lunta spirit. Embracing winter can even lead to population growth as we show off our region’s year-round outdoor paradise.

You probably know where this is going: with record-breaking temperatures and a lack of snow this year, our businesses and organizations who count on a robust winter season are hurting.

It can be challenging to get exact impact numbers, but we know a few startling statistics. The big one: approximately 40% of a winter resort’s revenue can come between the beginning of December and the first week of January. While that statistic may be limited to specific businesses, their services drive significant visitor traffic and encourage local socializing, which spills over to others. Looking at real-time hotel data available to us, thanks to our friends at Travel Marquette, we know that from Christmas to the end of January, there was an 18% decrease in revenue across Marquette County hotels, with a decline every week in 2024 compared to 2023. When you factor in that hotel costs commonly only consume about 20% of a visitor’s spending on average, that additional 80% of missing revenue from other local businesses is felt across a wide swath of businesses in our area. Software the LSCP recently purchased to support the Small Business Support Hub backs up these trends, showing a more than 20% year-over-year decrease in visitors to Marquette County from December through February.

Many organizations have been able to pivot, such as updating routes for the Noquemanon Ski Marathon or activating downtown Marquette via the Festival of the Sled Dog. Tackling challenges and finding solutions are part of our nature and sisu spirit. For those efforts, I believe those organizations – and the individuals who make them possible – deserve much praise. Thank you for all you do.

But many of our businesses are adapting in real time every day and we’ll likely need help from outside sources to address the immediate impacts of this year’s historically warm season. Some are even considering loans to keep their existing teams on payroll, the situation is very real for them.

On behalf of the business community, the LSCP has been active in discussions to identify avenues for support and relief. One such avenue – an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) from the Small Business Association – has recently become available throughout Marquette County via an existing disaster declaration. EIDLs provide low-interest rates and no payments in the first year. But like any federal funding, they can come with paperwork and a time commitment apply. While an EIDL can be the right tool for some, we also encourage businesses to work directly with their local bank to see what flexibility or tools they can offer first; we’re fortunate to have strong, community-focused banks, especially during times like these.

It’s been a rough winter for those businesses who rely on the snow. There’s no doubt about it. But we’ll continue to support businesses as they adapt, plan, and recover as best they can. The LSCP’s existing toolbox of business development and networking services, alongside those of our other economic development partners, is especially critical during times like these, and we’ll maximize their use as muchas we can to assist. The vibrancy of our local and regional economy – our primary mission at the LSCP – depends on it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Christopher Germain is the Lake Superior Community Partnership’s CEO.


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