PROGRESS 2020: What works here?
Northern Michigan’s climate, geography, and natural resources provide the perfect atmosphere for specific types of industry to thrive.
Here’s a look at what works Up North, and some of the companies pushing the economy:
LaFarge North America, in Alpena, is one of the main cement companies in the region. It was founded about 106 years ago, according to an online pamphlet by the company, and has been going strong ever since.
Jeffery Scott, Alpena plant manager, said the resources in the region help to build the industry up.
“One of the biggest drivers for any cement plant was having the resources available,” Scott said. “And, thanks to Northeast Michigan, we have wonderful stone resources. This is the most pure limestone in the Midwest.”
Scott said LaFarge finds new ways to reduce the plant’s carbon footprint, including reusing tires and other materials from big power plants that would usually go to a landfill.
The Besser Co. has been in business for over 100 years and continues to push the concrete industry.
According to the company’s website, the company was founded by Herman Besser in 1904. He was a German immigrant attracted to the Midwest because of its lumber and farming industries. During his life, he worked in the lumber and cement industries before opening his concrete company with his son, Jesse.
Today, the company headquarters is located in Alpena and is the center of the concrete industry on the 45th Parallel.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the northern Lower Peninsula accounts for 37% of Michigan’s forests. The Upper Peninsula accounts for 45% and the southern Lower Peninsula accounts for 18%. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Alcona and Montmorency counties have commercial land while Alpena and Presque Isle counties don’t.
Alpena Forestry is a forest management program located in Alpena. Their website has a list of services including writing up a forest management plan and logging supervision.
Their philosophy is “Trees are a renewable resource. A well-managed forest can provide a continuous supply of harvestable timber and become a valuable investment for you, your children and your children’s children.”
Their foresters have been in the industry for well over 20 years each and they both have a Bachelor of Science in forestry. They push their industry by providing a lot of information about the forests and providing services to protect landowners and forest.
Their mission statement is “To meet the financial objectives and needs of each forest landowner while providing for forest sustainability and protection.”
The Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center was founded in the early 1900s when the use of “flying machines” became more popular.
A group of well-known men, Harry and Philip Fletcher, Robert Scott, and James McQuarrie, developed the idea for the airport.
By the late 1930s, people heard about the airfield and started to use it for military personnel and training.
Today, annual Northern Strike exercises bring military units from across the globe to Alpena to train in the wide-open air spaces and acres of open water over Lake Huron.
The Alpena Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is not only responsible for pushing tourism-related media and ads, but also for keeping up business relations throughout the region.
Mary Beth Stutzman, the president and CEO of the CVB, said her firm tells the stories of Alpena and shows the abundance of opportunities the region has to folks who want to know more.
“Our organization is responsible for sharing the package of what the Alpena area has to offer with folks who align with the lifestyle and opportunities in our area,” Stutzman said. “So, we take the stories of Alpena and of our greatest assets and tell those stories to people who have never been here or haven’t been here in awhile.”
Beyond the CVB, the area’s tourism depends on residents like Steve Plowman, of Plowman Collision, who help clean up state parks, houses, and businesses to add to the overall appeal of the region.
“If we see something that is an eyesore, we have a group of volunteers and we get out and do it,” Plowman said.