Hancock readies industrial park with nearly $1 million state grant

Hancock’s efforts to create a new industrial park have been given a major boost with a nearly $1 million award from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The $969,352 award will help complete infrastructure improvements at the 40-acre Hancock Business and Technology Park, increasing capacity in electric, gas and water at the site and will remove the last hurdle to the new park opening for business later this year. 

Hancock City Manager Mary Babcock said the final infrastructure work is underway and she expects businesses will be able to move in this summer.

“This crucial funding will pave the way for the creation of shovel-ready sites, fostering new opportunities for businesses to flourish and grow.  As a small community with limited resources, this support is a significant step forward — a game changer not just for Hancock but for our neighboring communities as well,” Babcock said in an MEDC news release announcing the award.

What’s happening: Hancock, a city of 4,500 in Houghton County on the Keweenaw Peninsula, received the $969,352 award late last month from the MEDC Strategic Site Readiness Program. The city’s industrial park was one of 18 projects across the state to receive grant funding from the program aimed at supporting Michigan’s efforts to compete for and win transformative projects. In all, $87.5 million in grants were awarded.

This funding for strategic site readiness, along with the collaboration with local, regional and energy partners, will help communities across Michigan “experience increased economic development opportunities to support in their business development efforts,” according to the MEDC.

The grant will enable Hancock to further ready the park and help expand and diversify the economy in the Houghton and Hancock area. That effort fits in with a strategic plan for what the state has identified as Prosperity Region 1 (one of 10 in the state), which includes Hancock. The Hancock project was the only one in the Upper Peninsula awarded funds in this round of grants by the Strategic Site Readiness Program. Funding was awarded in nine of the state’s 10 prosperity regions, representing at least one grant for every region that submitted applications.

Located about 10 minutes from downtown Hancock, the new park builds on the success of the nearly full Industrial Airpark at the Houghton County Memorial Airport. 

“On behalf of the City of Hancock, we are thrilled to be awarded funding from the MEDC Strategic Site Readiness Program for our 40-acre Hancock Business and Technology Park,” Babcock said.

The backstory: The 40-acre site off U.S. Route 41 was purchased by the city 20 to 30 years ago, Babcock said, for the purpose of building this park. Funding fell through then and the project was put on the back burner; it was resurrected in 2018 with the award of a $2.7 federal grant to the city from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for flood relief. The money from that grant, matched by a 20 percent contribution by the city, was used to extend services to the site.  
Now that work can be finished, thanks to the most recent award.

What’s next: Businesses have already inquired about availability of a spot in the park when it is finished, Babcock said. The need is clear — the Industrial Airpark at the nearby Houghton County Memorial Airport is almost at capacity. 

“We're just starting to advertise it (the new park) and we do have a couple of prospective developers that are looking at bringing their business up into this park,” Babcock said. How many businesses the site can accommodate will depend on the size and the needs of the various businesses that locate there, she says.

“We somewhat have it laid out for two-acre sites, but it is totally adaptable at this point,” Babcock said.

Expected impact: “I think it's really exciting for our future because it gives us the opportunity to bring in viable businesses and create some tax base for the city,” Babcock said. “We don't really have any kind of business park type feature within the city of Hancock, so this will be something that is new for us.”

The city’s largest employers are UP Health System Portage and the Copper Country  Intermediate School District.

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years. She is a regular contributor to Rural Innovation Exchange, UPword and other Issue Media Group publications. 
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