Current News & Updates

Free PPE kits for over 100 Keweenaw businesses

The regional reopening is exciting for all U.P. business owners, but it also comes with additional costs and challenges to maintain social distancing requirements. Jen Julien, Owner of The Vault Hotel in Houghton, has partnered with local organizations to assemble and distribute 100 PPE kits to local businesses. The kits will include mandatory supplies like face masks, hand sanitizer, and signage. Julien says, “Many of our small businesses are absolutely drained of cash at this point. The provision of some basic supplies to help them open and comply with the state requirements is a big deal to them.”

The concept became a reality when Superior National Bank stepped up to fund the entire program. Additionally, Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce, Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance stepped up with communication and distribution support. Read the full story here

COVID-19 safety guidance and industry specific best practices

The Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity has provided COVID-19 Workplace Safety Guidance as businesses begin to reopen. They have also collaborated with industry leaders and experts to provide best practice guidelines for the following industries to understand executive order requirements:

#KeepUPWorking initiative launched in Dickinson County

Dickinson Area Economic Development Alliance (DAEDA) launched the #KeepUPWorking campaign to bring awareness to current employment opportunities in the U.P. While the Coronavirus pandemic resulted in impacts, there are still many Dickinson County businesses that are hiring. The goal of the campaign is to create awareness of the viable job market, encourage prospective employees to look at long term opportunities, and support hiring organizations. To learn more, click here.

Media Meet with Miller Canfield

In addition to the webinar presented last week, Miller Canfield joined WNMU-TV13 and TV6 for a special edition of Media Meet. Thanks to Brad Arbuckle, Leigh Schultz, and Jacob Hogg for sharing their insights on the regional reopening, as well as expectations and opportunities for businesses. Watch the full episode here.

Minneapolis Federal Reserve webinar shares U.P. economic findings

From the onset of COVID-19, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve has conducted business surveys in the Upper Peninsula and surrounding areas. With the findings varying by location, InvestUP appreciated the opportunity to coordinate a webinar with Ron Wirtz, Regional Outreach Director, to learn more about the survey findings and impacts specific to the U.P. The webinar is available here.

Find your nearest COVID-19 testing center

Now more than ever, testing for COVID-19 is critical to slow the spread. If you are experiencing symptoms, you can contact your healthcare provider to determine if you should be evaluated for testing. Each testing provider will determine if testing is appropriate based on your symptoms, risk factors, and test availability. You can find the nearest testing center using this interactive map.

Groundbreaking looks to future opportunities

While the Coronavirus has impacted facets in every community, the importance of continuing work remains. Earlier this year, the Great Lakes Sports Commission, in collaboration with First National Bank in Iron Mountain, as well as other U.P. banks, provided a loan to the Kiwanis Ski Club in Iron Mountain, supporting renovations to the Pine Mountain Ski Jump. The groundbreaking took place on May 18 with work projected to continue through October. Champion, Inc. will be doing the construction. The goal of the renovations is to conform with International Ski Federation Standards so the club can host a world cup in upcoming years. Learn more about this initiative here.

InvestUP unveils COVID-19 business impact survey results. It’s truly different U.P. here

InvestUP worked to collect and present facts about COVID-19 in the Upper Peninsula. While the U.P. represents 30% of Michigan’s land mass, it only includes 3% of the overall population. Since the first case of COVID-19 was detected in the U.P., there has been an average of 1.6 cases daily. This fact sheet was created in response to the recent economic impact survey that identified the need for the U.P. to open safely and strategically. To review the document, click here.

The U.P. is safely reopening

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the start of a regional reopening that includes the U.P. Key highlights are:

Michigan-based national law firm offers webinar to U.P. to reopen safely within Executive Order

InvestUP would like to thank its member, Miller Canfield, for hosting a webinar with the help and support from LSCP. The firm shared insights and guidance to U.P. businesses on workplace safeguards and the reopening of specific industries. Listen to the full webinar here.

Federal Reserve presents economic performance data specific to U.P. region

Thanks to ongoing engagement with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, a webinar will be held to share findings from its economic surveys and other research on current business conditions in the Upper Peninsula and COVID-19 impacts. To register, click here.

PPE assistance for Michigan businesses

Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC) has set up the PMBC COVID-19 Procurement Platform. This is designed for Michigan businesses in need of non-medical grade PPE to keep their employees safe and healthy as they resume operations. To learn more about the program, click here.

NMU announces earlier start to fall semester

The NMU Board of Trustees approved a revised schedule for fall semester. President Fritz Erickson proposed the idea of an earlier start, hoping to avoid a resurgence of COVID-19. This move allows students to stay home following the Thanksgiving break, rather than return to the University to finish classes. The semester will begin on Monday, August 17 and end on Tuesday, November 24.

The Upper Peninsula will continue to lead in education, with all 4 universities planning on resuming in-person classes in the fall.

Love on Local: Support your local businesses

Lake Superior Community Partnership and the Greater Ishpeming-Negaunee Chamber of Commerce have launched Love on Local. This is a gift card program for Marquette County to promote local shopping at small businesses. As the economy restarts, supporting local businesses is more important than ever. This program will allow small businesses, individuals, and larger companies to connect and collaborate on a great campaign. For more information, please click here.

MTU manufacturing face shields and other PPE

Michigan Tech continues to find innovative ways to stem the spread of COVID-19. Its most recent move: setting up a mini manufacturing center in the Van Pelt & Opie Library. Library staff David Holden and John Schneiderhan, along with engineer Joshua Pearce and campus community members are using 3D printers to create face shields for local healthcare workers.

The team has printed more than 2,500 face shields that were distributed through Western Upper Peninsula Health Department. They have plans to produce other items in short supply, like testing swabs. Read the full story here.

NMU utilizes CARES Act funding for student emergency grants

Northern Michigan University will provide emergency grants of up to $700 to eligible students who have been financially strained by COVID-19. NMU is using its share of the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund for this purpose. The application period ends May 25th.

MEDC announces new community development initiatives

Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced new initiatives designed to support the economic recovery efforts of small businesses and traditional downtowns throughout the state:

  • MI Local Biz: Small businesses can raise funds through a donation-based crowdfunding model. MEDC will match up to $5,000.
  • Match on Main: Provides funds to community organizations to support small businesses in traditional downtowns. Applications close at 5p.m. on May 29, 2020.
  • Reopen Main Street: Strategic resources to reopen downtown businesses.

 

For more information on these programs, click here.

Local bike shop raises more than $10,000 through can collections

Mr. Bike, Ski, & Fitness organized a can collection in Escanaba to raise money for the homeless community during the COVID-19 crisis. In just 4 weeks, owner Matt Marenger has raised more than $10,000. Overwhelmed by donations, Matt put out a call for help on Facebook looking for an organization to take over the program. 

This week, Matt announced that Major Alex and the Salvation Army will continue the program, in addition to making the fundraiser permanent. Beginning May 25th, community members can drop off cans at the Salvation Army located at 3001 5th Ave., S., Escanaba.

‘Yooper Strong’ beer sales benefitting front line workers

51st State Brewing Company in Kingsford has created ‘Yooper Strong’, a new beer which will support frontline workers during COVID-19. Owner Victoria Brickley explained, “We would like to give back to the community. So, we decided the easiest way would be to take a portion of sales from our Yooper Strong beer and give it back to the people on the front line.”

The beer takes about 3 weeks to make, and community members are encouraged to call ahead if they would like to make a purchase. The money will be donated to Dickinson County Healthcare System so they can purchase more PPE. Read more here.

Florence Schools creating materials for Dickinson County Healthcare System

The Florence County School District is using 3D printers to create t-pieces for Dickinson County Healthcare System in Iron Mountain. The t-piece will allow DCH to use machines they currently have and convert them into ventilators for COVID-19 patients.

While DCH has 4 state of the art ICU ventilators on hand, the assistance from Florence County School District will give them the ability to expand their supply if needed. Read the full story here.

MEDC SBR grant recipients now available

Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced that 2,700 small businesses across the state received Michigan Small Business Relief grants. Of the $10 million allocated to the Michigan Small Business Relief Grant Program, $500,000 was given to the U.P. and dispersed to 80 small businesses. The average grant award was $6,250. A full list of U.P. grant recipients is now posted and can be seen here.

Drive through COVID-19 testing available in Houghton

Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center has partnered with the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department to offer drive-through testing in Houghton. The test site is open Monday through Friday from 8a.m. to 4:30p.m. at the Gates Tennis Center at Michigan Tech.

If you would like to be tested, call 844-947-4854 and answer questions about your symptoms. You will be transferred to a nurse who will navigate you through the pre-registration process and schedule an appointment. UGL has plans to open more testing centers in the U.P., starting with Gwinn and Calumet. Read more here.

U.P. economic impact survey results

Last week, 330 business owners and leaders from all 15 U.P. counties participated in an economic impact survey conducted by InvestUP, Upper Peninsula Michigan Works, and local economic developers. With an average business size of 6-9 employees, small businesses across the region reported the following:

  • 46% anticipated not being able to survive more than 6 months if some economic reopening is not permitted in the near future.
  • 68% have seen changes in payroll and workforce.
  • 50% of businesses furloughed or temporarily laid off an average of 5 employees.

The comments illustrated a common call for the U.P. to be recognized as its own region. Most businesses expressed a readiness to reopen. Concerns about the impacts of an extended closure on the region’s seasonal businesses were also expressed. More details will follow.

U.P. banks process $286 million into the region during first 2 weeks of PPP lending

According to the Community Bankers of Michigan, U.P. banks lent $286 million to over 2100 businesses during the first phase (2 weeks) of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). During normal times, U.P. banks collectively process these levels of application in 15 month periods. This work illustrates that community banks in the U.P. are a critical catalyst in helping support the economy, small businesses, and their communities.

U.P. universities taking a state-wide lead on plans for fall in-person classes

Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan University, and Lake Superior State University among first in Michigan to unveil plans that will keep students and employees safe while enabling continued learning

Universities in the U.P. are making plans to resume in-person classes for the Fall 2020 Semester. Leadership and Boards of Trustees have taken much into consideration and prioritized public health as they unveiled their plans.

  • NMU’s Board of Trustees approved a proposal from President Fritz Erickson under the assurance that the University will abide by state and federal recommendations and lawful orders as they return to face-to-face instruction.
  • Michigan Tech has announced “MTU Flex“, a hybrid learning model that will be implemented in the fall. While they are planning to welcome the community back to campus, MTU Flex allows the University to transition from in-person to online instruction with ease, when necessary.
  • Lake Superior State University announced that they plan to resume face-to-face instruction, in addition to adjusting the academic calendar. Instruction will commence on Monday, August 10th and will conclude prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Upper Peninsula Regional Reopening

InvestUP remains committed to moving the U.P. forward in a safe manner, mindful of science and our circumstance. Recently, Governor Whitmer introduced the MI Safe Start Plan and created the Michigan Economic Recovery Committee (MERC), to explore ways to reopen the state and start the economy. While the MI Safe Start Plan did identify the U.P. as a region of its own, there are no U.P. representatives serving on either of the MERC committees. We are committed to collaborating with U.P. stakeholders to create a plan specific to the Upper Peninsula. 

All 14 U.P. hospitals urge regional strategic plan to start to transition

InvestUP and economic development organizations across the U.P. recently engaged with local, state, and federal legislatures to begin the progression of resuming non-emergent and emergent procedures in all 14 U.P. hospitals. This move will ensure the health and welfare of residents is balanced against the impact of COVID-19. Immediately following that engagement, the House and Senate introduced and adopted a joint, concurrent resolution asking the Administration to permit hospitals to expand their scope of service to the extent it can be done safely with the hope it will advance this critical conversation. To view SR 111, please click here.

A public dashboard has been developed by the Michigan Health & Hospital Association that aggregates by health system to provide a synopsis of PPE days on hand, as well as patient census. View the dashboard here.

Michigan Child Care Relief Fund

Michigan Department of Education has announced the Child Care Relief Fund, helping child care providers cover costs and stay open during the COVID-19 State of Emergency. Grants will start at $1,500 for home-based providers and $3,000 for childcare centers, with additional funds being awarded based on size, whether they are open and serving essential workers, and their quality rating. Find more information and application details here.

Internet resources to support U.P. communities during COVID-19

As people have stayed in place, the need for broadband access in some areas has been magnified, leading local communities to work together to expand service. One recent example highlights how Portage Health Foundation worked with local broadband providers to create 20 Wi-Fi hotspots with drive-in locations throughout Keweenaw, Houghton, Baraga, and Ontonagon Counties.

In an additional effort to expand internet access, the National Association of Counties (NaCo) has partnered with a host of organizations to develop the TestIT mobile app which empowers individual to provide data on how they experience cellular and broadband internet daily. The data collected through the app identifies areas with low or no connectivity to inform federal policy and funding decisions around broadband infrastructure. Find more information here

Media Meet: COVID-19 impacts and resources

InvestUP CEO Marty Fittante joined Representative Sara Cambensy along with Amy Clickner (CEO, Lake Superior Community Partnership) and Amy Quinn (CEO, Grow & Lead Community & Youth Development), and host Elizabeth Peterson for a special episode of Media Meet on WNMU-TV PBS.

The group discussed programs, grants, and loans aimed to help efforts to inform the business community and nonprofit organizations during the COVID-19 crisis. Watch the episode here.

EIDL Application Status update

An additional $60 billion was allocated to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). The SBA is not accepting new applications at this point, but those who have already submitted applications will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

To check the status of an existing application, call 1-800-659-2955 and ask to speak to a “Tier 2 Specialist.”

L’Anse Manufacturing building ventilator parts for COVID-19 patients

L’Anse Manufacturing, a precision machining company, has stepped up to the fight against COVID-19 by manufacturing parts for ventilators. When they started production during the third and fourth quarters of 2019, they had projected production through 2021. In a few short months, the company has exceeded those projections of more than 500 parts, with the latest order totaling 2,100 parts.

L’Anse Manufacturing’s President Mark Massicotte knows the importance of their work and is proud to be doing their part. Read the full story here.

Michigan state tax deadlines extended to July

Michigan Department of of Treasury issued additional taxpayer guidance regarding state income tax return filing and payment deadlines, extensions, and payments. Under Executive Order 2020-26, all April 2020 Michigan state income tax filing deadlines have been extended to July 2020.

New toolkits from Lake Superior Community Partnership

Lake Superior Community Partnership has shared a few ideas to help businesses survive the Coronavirus economy.
  1. Resiliency Toolkit: offers cashflow, marketing, and sales ideas for both now and as the economy reopens
  2. Hibernation Toolkit: provides a few habits that business owners can implement to secure cash

Wakefield engineering plant making reusable masks

Westfall Technik, an injection molding firm, is producing reusable face masks at its Extreme Tool & Engineering Plant in Wakefield, MI. When the company saw individuals making masks in their homes, they were confident that they could find a solution to produce a significant amount of masks to donate to healthcare workers.

In 2 weeks, the project went from an idea to molded parts. They are now molding more than 4,000 masks per day. Taking the innovation further, Westfall Technik designed masks so that household items like elastic bands and shoelaces can be used in case PPE is scarce. Read the full story here.

U.P small business owners invited to share insight on restarting economy

The Michigan Senate “Safe Behavior for Safe Workplaces”, which engaged the InvestUP Board of Directors last week to talk about strategies to transition the economy safely back to work, has launched a website to accept feedback from businesses and workers.

To ensure that the voice of Upper Peninsula small business owners are heard, please click here to share your opinion on when businesses should safely look to operate again and provide a safe work environment to employees and those they serve.
 
Your input will be critical in helping the group better understand the needs of Upper Peninsula job providers and workers as the state works to reopen for business.

Michigan’s health insurers agree to provide coronavirus treatment at no cost to patients

The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) has received agreements from the majority of Michigan’s health insurance companies to waive cost-sharing, including copays, deductibles, and coinsurance for coronavirus testing and treatments. Find a list of insurers in agreement and learn more here.

michigan tech opens covid-19 testing lab

Michigan Tech University has partnered with local hospitals to ensure that the Upper Peninsula has better access to COVID-19 test results. The lab has the capacity to run 40 samples per hour and will save healthcare providers days of waiting for test results.

We are grateful for the many hands that quickly came together to make this a reality, including Representative Markkanen and Senator Ed McBrook, OSF St. Francis Hospital Pathologist, Dr. Cary Gottlieb, and DHHS, particularly its Chief Deputy Director, Elizabeth Hertel. She gave up a Saturday afternoon to work with us to get MTU immediately before state certification officials. Because of their collective and tireless effort, this lab began testing this week. Read more about the collaboration on Michigan Tech’s website.

lssu joins the fight against covid-19

Lake Superior State University has joined the fight against COVID-19. The campus community has taken resources from Nursing Labs, Chemistry, and Biology areas and donated hospital beds, IV pumps, N95 masks, and face shields to War Memorial Hospital.

In addition, LSSU has utilized its 3D printers to provide support to the Great Lakes Composites Institute of Bay Mills Community College to assist with producing 40 face shields per day which will be given to local healthcare and hospice facilities.
 
The transition to remote learning and virtual programming allowed the university’s Student Government and University Activities Board to come together and donate $7,000 of their budgets towards the purchase of protective equipment for those on the front lines. Read more about LSSU’s initiatives here.

 

save small business fund $5,000 grant application available on april 20 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has announced a new program: the Save Small Business Fund. The fund is open to businesses that employ between 3 and 20 people, are located in an economically vulnerable community, and have been harmed financially by COVID-19.
 
The $5,000 grants are funded through corporate and philanthropic donations and are to be applied toward business expenses. The application will be available on April 20 at 12:00pm PT. Click here to determine eligibility.
 

Free small business support with invent@nmu

 

In response to the economic impacts on the Marquette community, Invent@NMU has collaborated with Innovate Marquette SmartZoneLucidCoast, and Campfire CoWorks to offer free services to small local businesses, highlighted below.
 
This initiative is part of Northern Michigan University‘s #WildcatsMeanBusiness campaign. To learn more and request services, click here.

 

sba confirms exhaustion of funding appropriations for eidl and ppp programs as of april 17th

The SBA has confirmed a lapse in funding appropriations for both the EIDL and PPP programs. Congressional conversations are continuing for further federal stimulus funds for PPP as well as other possible relief funding.

unemployment benefits now open to 1099-independent contractors and low-wage workers

Self-employed workers, gig-workers, 1099-independent contractors, and low-wage workers can now apply for federal benefits on the Labor and Economic Opportunity website. Those who previously applied and were denied are encouraged to login to their MiWAM account to complete the next steps.

Joe’s One Stop: local businesses leaning on each other through COVID-19 impacts

Just like all small across the nation, Joe’s One Stop, a gas station and general store in Rock, Michigan, is faced with the impacts of COVID-19. Owner Joe Skellenger reached out on Facebook to share his concerns and ask his community for support. In less than 24 hours, he received an overwhelming outpouring of customers which not only kept his doors open, but allowed him to pay it forward. Joe and his wife donated $200 to Herb’s Bar and presented the owners with an idea to offer buy one get one meal deals. With the new promotion, Herb’s Bar increased their take-out service and received similar support with the community 

The increased business allowed Joe to expand inventory and further support his community as signs will soon line M-35 with the name and photo of every high school senior to recognize Mid Peninsula’s Class of 2020. Read the encouraging full story here.

MTU quickly engineered and built a mobile prototype expected to clean 25-30 pieces of personal protection equipment (PPE) in 2 hours

Michigan Technological University has once again proven that it is a worldwide leader in innovation. Over the past few weeks, a team of mechanical engineers built a prototype unit that could potentially save lives. Across the world, healthcare workers and first responders have been desperately pleading for more PPE or a high-volume sanitation solution.

The Mobile Thermal Utility (MTU) Sanitizer has the ability to be an absolute game changer – cleaning upwards of 60,000 units of personal protection equipment (PPE) every day. Read the full story here.

Michigan’s Work Share Program

Michigan’s Work Share program allows an employer to keep employees working with reduced hours. The program allows employees to keep working while collecting partial unemployment benefits to make up a portion of the lost wages.

Kobasic Creations: Providing hospitals with intubation boxes

Located in downtown Escanaba, Kobasic Creations is a small business husband and wife duo specializing in woodworking and laser engraving. Like so many small local businesses, COVID-19 brought about a swift and unexpected change.

Kobasic’s co-owner Jake quickly recognized that he could shift to create intubation boxes for local hospitals. He started a GoFundMe to help fund materials so these boxes could be donated to local hospitals. Thanks to the generosity of many U.P. companies and individuals, these boxes have shipped across the U.S. and into Canada to help fill an essential need.

Wanting to do even more, Jake knew he had the production capability to build face shields, but lacked proper materials. The Escanaba Area High School Robomos and area businesses stepped up to the plate and donated materials needed to produce the face shields. Kobasic Creations also partnered with Cal Valves who produces the headbands and together they hope to provide approximately 200 pieces to local medical staff.

 

U.P. manufacturers step up and shift to service and support health care needs

When push comes to shove, those in the Upper Peninsula do what they can to help those around them. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, businesses and organizations have stepped up and shifted production to provide devices and supplies to the front line.

In Calumet, Michigan, Calumet Electronics is manufacturing components that will be used in life-saving equipment, like ventilators, for COVID-19 patients. When a company who produces equipment for breathing machines reached out to Calumet, they immediately stepped up, shifted their production priorities, and worked quickly to get the orders out the door. Todd Brassard, VP and COO, said, “We will prioritize and deliver these types of orders ASAP. Our committed employees, technologies, and 50 years of experience, positions Calumet to deliver reliable parts that will work without fail in these ventilators.”

On the western end of the peninsula, an iconic U.P. brand has leveraged their existing infrastructure and talent to serve the front line workers. With all of the necessary equipment and materials, Stormy Kromer is able to utilize their sewing expertise to provide materials that healthcare workers and first responders desperately need right now. The company is currently fulfilling orders for face masks and gowns.

In addition to these examples, there are countless other businesses, organizations, and community groups from every area of the U.P. that are continuing to come together to do their part. Face shields are being created with 3D printers. Businesses are developing isolation materials for local hospitals. Community members are sewing face masks. Whether it’s materials, money, energy, or time, everyone is doing their part to support their communities in a time of need.