NEGAUNEE — Fifteen days ago, the Empire Mine in Palmer ceased production. In all, 400 people are out of work.
In an effort to help those people and the area, Governor Rick Snyder announced a plan in Negaunee Friday afternoon called ‘Project Empire.’
“This is about how we can rally together and work together to solve a problem– an important problem for this area, this community and the people of these communities,” said Snyder.
Project Empire is about state and federal resources working together with the goal of bringing long–term economic viability to an area that’s losing hundreds of high skilled and high paying jobs.
“Our goal here will be to make resiliency, a new prosperity and bringing you new opportunities wherever we can,” said Steve Arwood, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Ten years ago, Pfizer, a pharmaceutical corporation, left Ann Arbor.
Thousands of people lost high–paying jobs. The city did recover from that.
Snyder thinks that can also happen here in the U.P.
“The Ann Arbor one, to put it in context, was 3,000 jobs of some of the highest paying jobs in that community,” said Snyder. “This is an opportunity for us to get over what might have been differences in the past and let’s work together to help the people that need help and then plan for a brighter future.”
Officials at the local, state and federal levels plan to meet with the public to further discuss Project Empire, but no public meetings have yet been set. Not everyone at the press conference was thrilled with Project Empire.
Ryan Underwood works at the Tilden Mine. His son just lost his job at the Empire Mine.
Underwood said Friday’s announcement should have been made months ago.
“We have 300 people that are going to be hitting the streets in a week and I don’t see any programs setup for them,” said Underwood. “Somebody should have went to the union hall and talked to the miners and gave them some phone numbers for support. No, that didn’t happen. I’m emotional about this. It bothers me,” Underwood added. “But we will fight through it. We will get through it.”
“Yoopers are awful tough,” said Ishpeming Mayor Mike Tonkin. “We will get it done. It might hurt for a little while, but we will get it done.”
“I hope that we will all be supportive in that effort,” said Snyder. “At the state, I’m committed to doing what we can to be a great partner.”
Cliffs Natural Resources announced back in January that the Empire Mine would close sometime in 2016.