Governor Whitmer holds roundtable on rural issues with UP leaders

Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 11:18 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2022 at 11:23 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - The first day of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s summer visit to Upper Michigan featured a stop at Northern Michigan University’s campus, where she joined representatives from the Michigan Department of Rural Development and dozens of other local leaders in a roundtable discussion.

InvestUP CEO Marty Fittante told Whitmer the U.P. can not afford more population loss.

He suggested utilizing the U.P.’s outdoor amenities as an economic advantage.

Whitmer says she agrees.

“We’ve made this historic investment in our state parks, upgrading them, making them more accessible,” Whitmer said. “Our national resources are a huge part of our lives but also our economy.”

Sawyer International Airport manager Duane DuRay talked about the importance of having an airport in a rural area.

Sawyer still has its original terminal and DuRay said a new one will cost $32 million.

More than $7 million needs to come from Marquette County, which DuRay said is not viable.

Earlier this month, Delta Airlines announced it will drop its Sawyer International Airport early departure and late arrival flights to and from Detroit starting Oct. 6. Skywest also announced it will pull the Delta County Airport’s and Iron Mountain’s Ford Airport’s direct flights to Detroit this fall.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re making investments in our airports, so that they are cutting edge,” said Whitmer. “They are places where we’ll continue to have economic development, so they can support advanced and increased mobility options. That’s why I was glad that (DuRay) was here. We’ve got a gap in funding and we want to work to meet that need because having an airport here in the central Upper Peninsula is crucial to everyone in the U.P. and frankly, it’s crucial to business in the Upper Peninsula as well.”

Whitmer also said she’ll be looking into a state strategy for population growth, which can then be applied regionally.

Whitmer said she will be at the U.P. State Fair Thursday.

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