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Preparing for launch

Two sites in U.P. join Michigan Launch Initiative

Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, speaks during a press conference Thursday at the Marquette County Courthouse steps in Marquette as former Michigan senator Tom Casperson, left, looks on. During the conference, officials announced that K.I. Sawyer in Marquette County was selected in as the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association’s vertical spaceport launch site and a site in Chippewa County was chosen as the autonomous vehicle proving grounds. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

MARQUETTE — A “home run.” That’s the phrase Marquette County Board of Commissioners Chair Gerry Corkin used to describe the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association’s decision to choose a location north of the city of Marquette for its vertical spaceport launch site.

Officials say the proposed site will be at the Granot Loma property in Powell Township.

The announcement, made by MAMA at a press conference on the Marquette County Courthouse steps Thursday, could lead to the creation of hundreds of jobs over the next several years.

MAMA also announced that Chippewa County has been chosen as the site for its autonomous vehicle proving grounds.

The two locations will become part of MAMA’s Michigan Launch Initiative, which also includes the Wurtsmith Airport site near Oscoda announced in February.

Marquette County Board of Commissioners Chair Gerry Corkin speaks during a press conference on Thursday. The event was held to announce K. I. Sawyer of Marquette County as the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association’s vertical spaceport launch site. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

The decision process began over a year ago to find the perfect site, according to a MAMA press release. In January, Marquette County and the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation launched a collaborative effort to establish a premier case for the Upper Peninsula to become a licensed spaceport and “demonstrate the cooperative foundation that exists in the region.”

The decision was made after a “long and arduous review process analyzing all attributes of the various sites vying for the title,” the release states.

“As we move forward with Michigan launch history and our goals and objectives, we are looking forward to this very exiting time to bring Michigan into the space-state status,” MAMA CEO Gavin Brown told attendees at the press conference. “And as we do that it will be with more jobs for you, your family, your friends, your neighbors. So that we can stay and have a livelihood that carries us on for generations to come.”

State Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, thanked MAMA and state and local officials who worked on the project.

“If there is one thing that we would like Gavin (Brown) and everyone else to know is how well we do work together,” Cambensy said. “When it comes to a project like this (we) go the extra mile and there is no partisan politics and whatever we have to do to get it done, will get done.

“This is news that you don’t expect to get. (It’s) once in a lifetime. And if you think back, when have we had this opportunity to bring hundreds of jobs — good paying jobs — to this area? It’s been a long, long time.”

State Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan — who did not attend Thursday’s press conference — said in a written statement that the announcement is “a true win for the people of the U.P.”

“We are very pleased that the U.P.’s many attributes were recognized through the vetting process,” McBroom said. “The vertical spaceport could bring quality job prospects to the region and highlight Michigan as a center for excellence and innovation.”

Brown said the spaceport will be a “green” project.

“The footprint itself will utilize as little of the terrain as possible to achieve the maximum result,” Brown said. “So when people talk about the spaceport, and vertical, you are not going to see the big build-out. You’re going to see new technology that basically does not leave the carbon footprint of the old days. Not only are we going to be leaders, but we are going to be stewards. We are going to be stewards of the air and land and water. As we should.”

Corkin said the announcement is the culmination of three years of work by county officials and decades of dedication to economic development in Marquette County.

“The county board has been very supportive of economic development and jobs,” Corkin said. “We knew we had a chance at the vertical launch site, so we kept working hard. It’s a long shot a lot of times because so many places wanted it. This announcement really makes me happy. It’s a home run for Marquette County as far as economic development and jobs — the biggest thing that’s happened here in the last 25 years.”

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