LSCP Perspectives: Embracing winter for all it offers

Christopher Germain

While it may be hard to tell with the warming temperatures this past week, winter is in full swing here in the Upper Peninsula. From regular fresh blankets of snow to putting on multiple layers when heading out for the day, winter is a part of the culture here in our region. And, despite how it may feel some days, it is also an economic asset for the area.

Much of the conversation around winter benefits resolves around events. This time of year offers residents throughout the Upper Peninsula the ability to participate in many wonderful events, including the UP200, Heikki Lunta in Negaunee, races on the trails, and at Marquette Mountain, the Trenary Outhouse Races, and so many more. When you expand to the entire U.P., that list becomes too large to mention in this column.

These events bring us out of our homes and give us a chance for fresh air, community interaction, and fresh memories with our families and friends. They also give us an opportunity to support local businesses and welcome visitors. All of which can have a significant economic impact. In 2020, the LSCP conducted an economic impact study which demonstrated the economic impact of the UP200 to be nearly $2 million on our local economy, including about $280,000 in tax revenue to support our communities. As Marquette’s popularity with visitors has only grown since then, we are sure the economic impact has as well.

Our winter climate also makes us uniquely situated to be a cold-weather testing ground for new technology, especially in the rapidly expanding electric vehicles industry. Through the RISE Grant, a coalition of economic development partners such as the LSCP, Innovate Marquette SmartZone, U.P. Michigan Works, local entrepreneur David Ollila, and others are working to accelerate that potential and additional jobs and investment success will bring.

And, of course, winter is essential to some of our favorite outdoor recreation opportunities, such as skiing, ice skating, snowmobiling, fat-tire biking, ice climbing, sleigh rides, and more.

While winter brings benefits, we are all too familiar with its challenges, from limits on our construction season and added costs for infrastructure maintenance to increases in mental health challenges and unexpected closures or delays of school or travel.

Over the years, an entire school of thought around how communities plan for and embrace winter has developed, and the impacts of the pandemic led to an increased interest in that work. In 2020, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) released a winter cities strategy guide. That guide is based on principles established through the work of the international Winter Cities Institute, which is based right here in the upper peninsula. In fact, the manager of that institute is working with the City of Marquette on the master plan update team, which will include an updated chapter on winter cities recommendations. The actions in that chapter of the plan will help guide decision-makers for years on how we can adjust and continue embracing winter productively and positively.

Whether you love playing in the snow or catching your favorite TV program from the couch with a cup of hot chocolate, the LSCP team hopes you are fully embracing winter and helping keep the economy humming. We hope to see many of you at events in the coming weeks and, as always, reach out if we can be of assistance.

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


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