NEGAUNEE – A response team of state agencies will assist communities in western Marquette County as they address economic and social challenges brought by the closing of the Empire Mine, Gov. Rick Snyder said today.
Project Empire will bring technical assistance and help local leaders take advantage of state and federal programs to address challenges that lie ahead in the near future while planning long-term economic strength and social well-being.
“The mining industry has been key to these communities for generations, and that’s something to be proud of, as iron ore from the Upper Peninsula built Michigan and built America,” Snyder said. “The closing of the Empire Mine is painful for many residents. Our work here will be to assist local leaders in helping families and the communities as a whole respond to arising problems, but also plot a path to a prosperous future.”
Project Empire will be a rapid response team led by the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development that will partner with municipal and community leaders to identify short and long-term challenges and projects.
“These communities will face significant challenges, and we stand ready to help,” said Steve Arwood, director of the Department of Talent and Economic Development. “There is expertise across state government to assist in this project with different approaches to different problems, but a common goal: To make western Marquette County stronger, improving the quality of life for their residents.”
An Interdepartmental Collaboration Committee will include representatives from agencies including – but not limited to — the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Talent Investment Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Transportation, Michigan State Police, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Plans call for a community leadership committee with representatives from government, the business community, educators and healthcare professionals to work with state agencies and experts to tap existing state and federal programs.
“During this time of uncertainty and inevitable change bought on by the idling of the Empire Mine, Negaunee welcomes the additional assistance offered by Gov. Snyder and the state agencies, “said Negaunee Mayor Dawn Schuhknecht. “Partnering with the state and other local organizations, we hope to assist those families affected by the layoffs navigate through the different services available to them and our community as a whole.”
State response teams have already started reaching out to local leaders on initial steps, with additional details to be determined in the weeks ahead.
“Change is not new in the mining industry. It has been this way for years, and we recognize that such changes create challenges for families and communities as a whole,” said Ishpeming Mayor Mike Tonkin. “This collaboration with the state to help us work these changes and strengthen our communities for the future is a positive thing, and we embrace this opportunity.”