Calumet: Where Collaborative Economic Development Drives Michigan Prosperity
Monday, November 6, 2023
Nestled in the Keweenaw Peninsula – the northernmost area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) – Calumet is central to the state’s efforts to drive prosperity for all Michiganders. With locally driven initiatives and statewide support, the people of Calumet are demonstrating what it means to have an impact through economic development.
The Make It in Michigan Holistic Approach
Calumet’s building blocks exemplify Make It in Michigan, the state’s economic strategy that creates a high quality of life for Michiganders through its three pillars:
- People: Educate, attract and support a knowledgeable workforce and network of entrepreneurs.
- Places: Collaborate with local partners to create attractive, vibrant places.
- Projects: Attract and grow businesses from home-grown, high-tech businesses to major corporations ready to invest in communities.
This shared focus from local entities, including the village of Calumet and the Calumet Downtown Development Authority (DDA), allows Calumet’s vision for prosperity to reach greater heights when it’s aligned with statewide partners, such as the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF).
“Collective efforts like those on display in Calumet are what make prosperity possible in Michigan,” said Quentin L. Messer, Jr., MEDC CEO and MSF President and Chair. “From the workers and entrepreneurs that embody the grit and innovative spirit of Michigan to the vibrant communities that they have created that make our state truly a special place to live and do business, read and heed, our U.P. neighbors, it’s time to Make It in Michigan.”
The Way to Prosperity for People in Calumet
Supporting the people of Calumet and the surrounding area so they have access to high-paying jobs, the training to forge rewarding careers and the resources to follow their entrepreneurial spirit are paramount to the region’s success.
Support People to Support the Economy
In 1968, the U.P.’s last copper mines closed, and the business leaders of the mining town of Calumet founded Calumet Electronics to keep jobs in the area. Now an essential piece of the state’s semiconductor manufacturing industry, Calumet Electronics is one of the many participants in an intricate, statewide web that supports the area’s residents.
For example, Calumet Electronics works closely with Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech), a leading institution in semiconductor research located down the road in Houghton, which in turn produces the engineers that help the company provide world-class products. The company also leads ongoing education efforts, from sponsoring the local high school robotics team to helping its workers with certification programs.
Calumet Electronics is also a key partner in the MEDC’s Semiconductor Talent Action Team, a public-private partnership with manufacturers, suppliers, R&D facilities, universities and State of Michigan agencies working to make the state a destination for talent attraction and growth.
Nearby Houghton is also home to the Michigan Tech Enterprise Corporation (MTEC) SmartZone, an organization dedicated to building on the thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in the U.P. The MTEC naturally works closely with Michigan Tech, as well as the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance (KEDA) and the MEDC.
Making Vibrant Communities by Preserving Historical Places
This wealth of business opportunity pairs with Michigan’s redevelopment projects to support the growth of vibrant, diverse and resilient communities that attract and retain talent in local communities.
The Beating Heart of Calumet
Main Street Calumet was established in 2003, part of the Michigan Main Street (MMS) program administrated through the MEDC. The statewide program helps communities build high-quality places with amenities, services and culture and entertainment in the heart of downtowns through efforts such as:
- Forming long-term strategies
- Navigating development planning
- Offering small business training
- Accessing MMS funding
Together, Calumet Main Street partners, including Calumet Art Center, Calumet Electronics, the KEDA, Keweenaw National Historical Park, nearby Houghton’s Orbion Space Technology and many more, have earned Calumet the title of Michigan’s Best Main Street Shopping District from Cheapism in 2022, and helped develop some of the region’s main ongoing attractions:
- Pasty Fest, a celebration of the Cornish pastry
- The Copper Dog 150, a 150-mile sled dog race
- The Main Street Calumet Farmer’s Market
It’s also helped orchestrate community crowdfunding efforts with matched funds from the MEDC. Programs like these allowed the Copper Country Curling Club (CCCC), a Calumet Main Street member, to bring new life to the Drill Shop, a facility for copper mine drilling equipment that sat vacant for 37 years. The Drill Shop now hosts the CCCC and community open house events.
Historic Preservation Forms the Future
In 2016, Main Street Calumet, the village of Calumet, Calumet DDA and many more local stakeholders formed Bring Back Calumet, an organization dedicated to ramping up the fight against blight in the historic downtown district.
To date, Bring Back Calumet has garnered over $9 million of public and private investments and rehabilitated 10 historic properties downtown. The effort has even earned the group the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation, which recognizes standout preservation projects in Michigan communities.
“I believe the renewal of Calumet is coming from people’s affinity for historic architecture in our downtown. It feels magical coming into Calumet and seeing a town that looks much the same as it did 100 years ago,” said Leah Polzien, executive director of Main Street Calumet, in a release. “The historic architecture in Calumet is what allows us to attract visitors to our community and the need for creation of experiences for visitors and residents is what will make further stabilization, rehabilitation and redevelopment of these properties viable.”
Team Michigan Builds Opportunity
While it takes a local, collaborative force such as Bring Back Calumet to set this revitalization on the right course, building maintenance and rehabilitation can be hard to accomplish in smaller, rural areas. In these situations, the MEDC and other partners can help overcome the technical and funding challenges of development to revitalize the downtown district and put buildings back in the tax base while preserving what makes communities like Calumet unique.
Calumet has been working with the MEDC’s Redevelopment Ready Communities certification program to create a consistent experience for developers that aligns with long-term goals and meets local planning and zoning requirements. The MSF and MEDC have also approved and administered over $2.4 million in grants in recent years, helping Calumet’s downtown rehabilitation with projects such as:
- Renovating the exteriors of four historically significant buildings on 5th St., including brickwork and window repair, to bring new life to the area through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).
- Stabilizing the historic sandstone building at 425 5th St. to save it from collapse, with the State Historic Preservation Office’s (SHPO) Resilient Lakeshore Heritage Grant Program.
- Turning the vacant building at 322 5th St. into a mixed-use development with housing and a commercial space through the Michigan Community Revitalization Program. The building will be leased to Frozen Farms, a locally owned meat market and member of Main Street Calumet.
Projects That Feed into Greater Success
Another core piece of supporting the residents of Calumet and its vibrant community is fostering transformational business projects that create jobs in the community while making the state’s economy more resilient.
Small Town Employer Changing the World
Calumet Electronics does more than contribute to local talent development and attraction. As one of the area’s largest employers with over 350 employees, the company also brings regional, statewide and national benefits, including:
- Providing the U.P. with jobs and partnerships that develop economic stability.
- Supporting the semiconductor industry, which contributes $4.6 billion in total gross regional product for Michigan.
- Helping to close the U.S. technology gap with Asia, strengthening reshoring and national security efforts.
With demand for U.S.-based semiconductors skyrocketing, Calumet Electronics is expanding operations to keep pace. Over the past two years, the company has developed plans to enhance its existing 35,000 sq.-ft. manufacturing facility and build a new 60,000 sq.-ft. facility. These projects will allow Calumet Electronics to expand its capabilities and become the first manufacturer in the U.S. to produce advanced organic substrates for semiconductors and respond to the Department of Defense’s need to make advanced electronics in the U.S.
For the existing facility, the MSF awarded $2.6 million in Michigan Business Development Program (MBDP) and CDBG grant funds, which also requires 51% of new jobs associated with the expansion to go to low- to moderate-income individuals. For the new facility, the MSF approved another $7.5 million MBDP grant and a 15-year full tax exemption. The funds will also support training for 40 current employees to work in the new facility.
“Through this investment from the State, the company will grow further into a key component of our national security by ensuring the foundational backbone of sophisticated electronic systems are made right here at home,” said Marty Fittante, CEO of InvestUP, the lead regional economic organization for the U.P. “And in doing so, provide further notice that the Upper Peninsula is home to manufacturing with cutting-edge technologies.”
The People, Places and Projects of Calumet are Driving Prosperity
As the village has transformed from a mining town to a tourist stop to an economic hotspot, Calumet has continued to provide opportunities for its residents, attractive places to live and visit and projects that foster business success. These collective, locally driven efforts of Calumet are setting the area on a course of prosperity for generations to come, one initiative at a time.
To learn more about the MEDC and its programs that support holistic community efforts like those driving Calumet, visit michiganbusiness.org.
To contact a business development specialist, click here or call 1.888.522.0103.
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