the history of Baraga County economic struggle – Baraga County, located in the northwestern Upper Peninsula of Michigan, has a history of a struggling economy.
These difficulties have become increasingly pronounced since the start of the Great Recession.
The low point of the county’s economy came in 2009, when one major employer significantly downsized, another ceased operations, and a third was kept from leaving only by publicly funding of a crucial infrastructure project.
Many smaller manufacturers were impacted by diminishing markets for their products.
Baraga County’s unemployment rate was among the highest in the nation at one point in 2009 and consistently remains among the highest in the State of Michigan.
This strategic plan is the best attempt of county government and regional planners to address the situation.
The strategic planning process began with formation of a group of community leaders.
These individuals would initially provide guidance and community perspective for the process.
Later, they would work with planners to develop and refine job creation strategies.
Finally, they would be given an opportunity to review the final plan and raise any issues remaining to be addressed.
Next, research was conducted as a basis for defining community needs and priorities.
This included multiple components: an introductory community forum, public opinion survey, focus groups, acceptance of general public feedback, and identification of assets.
Research aided planners in brainstorming potential strategies based on community input combined with current and historical knowledge about the area economy.
Five roughly outlined strategy ideas were presented to the community leadership group in March 2013: Promoting Local Healthcare Services, Green Energy Park, Community Resource & Visitor center, Indoor Farming, and Aquaculture.
The Resource & Visitor Center was dropped for lack of direct, short-term job creation potential.
The other four strategies were retained for further exploration.
aspects of the process
Local Healthcare Services and the Green Energy Park required the least exploration, as aspects of them were already in progress.
Baraga County Memorial Hospital, the center of healthcare in the county, had recently been doing strategic planning internally.
Go! Baraga County seeks to build on this progress, stressing the hospital’s need to market itself more visibly in the community in order to make its full range of services known and reduce leakage to other regional hospitals.
The Green Energy Park was a fresh spin on a project that had been planned for some time: infrastructure upgrades to a nearly vacant industrial park in L’Anse.
Ultimately the emphasis on “green” energy was dropped as a requirement in order to allow for speedier job creation.
The only obstacle to improving this park for conventional industry is lack of non-local funding.
Indoor farming and aquaculture were more novel.
These were selected because of the value residents of the county and region placed on natural resources and access to local foods.
There is regional demand for fresh produce, such as tomatoes, that cannot be provided locally by conventional means due to a short growing season.
Furthermore, branding fish and produce with a Baraga County place name would help the county