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UP government, business leaders tell MI governor how area economy can be improved

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Nicole Walton / WNMU
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Gary McDowell, Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and Sarah Lucas, Deputy of the Michigan Office of Rural Development

MARQUETTE, MI— Upper Peninsula leaders told Governor Gretchen Whitmer what they need from the state’s new Office of Rural Development at a roundtable at NMU Wednesday.

Housing and childcare continue to be the biggest obstacles to drawing people to less populated regions. Whitmer noted there’s still money on the table after the latest budget was passed, and input from rural areas on how those dollars should be employed is critical.

“The last thing any of us wants is a lame duck legislature to come back and just blow through seven billion dollars on pet projects. That’s not good for anybody.”

Whitmer said it will take collaboration on the state and local level to come up with sustainable solutions.

“It’s not ‘one size fits all.’ But there’s got to be a template that we can help to create that others can replicate to streamline, whether it’s dealing with the state government or to ensure that there’s enough pay to draw people into these important jobs.”

Sawyer International Airport Manager Duane DuRay said labor shortages in the airline industry are negatively affecting the airport, which touches nearly every business in Marquette County. He said cuts to flights at nearly every airport in the Upper Peninsula are harming the region’s economy.

The governor also stopped by the Jacobetti Home for Veterans Wednesday to talk about plans for a new facility. The state budget contains more than $34 million for that project.