State partners with leaders in Gogebic County to address economic challenges

LANSING — State agencies are working hand-in-hand with local leaders in the Gogebic County area to identify solutions to the economic challenges that lie ahead as a result of the forthcoming closure of the Ojibway Correctional Facility.

Project Gogebic, led by the Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan, will bring together state agencies to provide technical assistance to help local leaders leverage state and federal resources to their fullest extent to address the economic challenges head-on. Additionally, Project Gogebic will focus state resources on developing short- and long-term economic development strategies to create a sustainable economy for the community.

As part of Project Gogebic, a diverse group of local leaders has formed a steering committee to advise and collaborate with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation on the development of an economic strategy to provide the community with a roadmap to move the region’s economy forward now and well into the future. The MEDC has committed to fund the study as part of the state’s effort to help area leaders identify opportunities for success.

“The prison has been a key economic driver in the Gogebic area for more than 40 years, and its closure will undoubtedly be a challenge for employees and their families, as well as the greater Gogebic area,” Snyder said. “Our job now is to assist local leaders in helping families, but also ensure the community has the tools and resources needed to respond to the economic challenges ahead and position itself for a brighter future. And the formation of this steering committee is a great first step in that process.”

The larger, Project Gogebic multi-agency task force will include representatives from agencies including MEDC, the Talent Investment Agency, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan Department of Education, Department of Talent and Economic Development and more.

State teams have already started to meet with local leaders on next steps. And the Talent Investment Agency’s rapid response team visited the correctional facility to provide affected workers with the opportunity to help identify new and existing opportunities, options and resources for continued employment, training for new careers or connecting to available jobs in the area.

“Our first meeting with local and regional leaders was an opportunity to hear directly from the community about the challenges and opportunities for how we might move forward in building a diversified economy in the region.” MEDC CEO Jeff Mason said. “This steering committee is a partnership with businesses as well as community leaders and government officials who know best the people and potential of this region.”

“Not only will this plan identify opportunities that exist for short- and long-term economic development efforts but it will provide local leaders with a comprehensive strategy that helps create a more dynamic economy for existing businesses and entrepreneurs alike,” Mason added.

“In a small-town community, losing a major employer creates economic waves that impact families, businesses and the region,” Western U.P. Planning and Development Region Executive Director Jerry Wuorenmaa said. “It’s important that we move forward and ensure this does not become our community’s legacy. We have an obligation to set our community up for future success and this collaboration with the state will help us do just that. We appreciate and fully embrace this opportunity to work together – our families, businesses and region depend on the work ahead.”