$7.3 million manufacturing hub underway in eastern U.P.

Planes, trains and automobiles are what it takes for a thriving industrial infrastructure, and a giant leap in that direction is coming to the U.P. — a $7.3 million transportation and logistics hub at the Chippewa County Industrial Park in Kincheloe.

State and federal grants have supported the creation of the new manufacturing hub aimed at strengthening support for Michigan’s $20 billion forest products industry, and other new and expanding businesses as well. 

“We believe this infrastructure investment in Chippewa County is of immense importance to the region, as it will create employment opportunities to a rural and underserved community in the Upper Peninsula,” says Chris Olson, who is the president of the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation.

What’s happening: The Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) recently broke ground on a 20,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that will serve as a transportation and logistics hub for Maple Transport, Inc., a wood and lumber dealer a few miles down the road in Hessel. Its sister company, Maple Hardwoods, a company that deals in hardwood logs, lumber and forest management, just completed construction of a 60,000-square-foot building.

“This facility here in Kincheloe is going to act as their transportation logistics hub,” Olson says. “It sets up perfectly because we're only about two miles from interstate I-75. All the roads leading in here are Class A, so they can use them year-round … Typically, in the spring they'd have a load limit and so forth that restricts that, and they won't have it here.”

The project includes extension of municipal water, parking and driveway access from West Kincheloe Street, and an on-site sewer system. The industrial park owns 2.5 miles of rail off the main line, and the project will include a rail spur to the new building. 

“So, we'll be able to service their products with trucking as well as rail,” Olson says.

As a condition of the project’s grant funding, there is space for other tenants as well; negotiations are underway for a second tenant, he says, with space for a third.

What will it mean: Maple Transport, Inc. has committed to creating 10 jobs in addition to five retained jobs for its expanding operations. The new facility creates an environment where other businesses want to come and thrive and create employment, and that’s the EDC’s mission, Olson says. 

“This is going to be a great space, a modern space for people to come to be able to utilize multimodal transportation,” he says. “It's really planes, trains and automobiles.”

Who’s paying: The project is supported with $5.8 million in the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) funding and $1.25 million in matching funds from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's former federal match program. The Chippewa County EDC is contributing an additional $842,310 to the project. The Chippewa County EDC was also recently awarded a $325,000 Strategic Site Readiness Program grant through InvestUP’s allocation, which will support infrastructure improvements for Maple Hardwoods, Inc., a sister company of Maple Transport, Inc. 

What people are saying: Chippewa County EDC was joined by representatives of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, InvestUP, and Dakota Baker, Deputy Chief of Staff for Sen. John Damoose, at a recent groundbreaking event.

“Maple Transport, Inc. values the economic opportunity provided to us by this new facility,” Andrew Jaroche, president of Maple Transport, Inc. , said in a new release. We are especially grateful to the Economic Development Administration, Chippewa County EDC, InvestUP, the multiple state partners Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development as they have been critical in making this project a reality.”

“We are excited that the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation, under the leadership of Chris Olson, will have even further opportunity to advance prosperity for the region through this critically necessary multi-tenant manufacturing facility, which is uniquely designed to be flexible space that provides expansion opportunities through an existing rail spur,” says Marty Fittante, CEO of InvestUP.  “Because of the commitment and investment of the MEDC and the EDA, to whom we offer our appreciation, the region will be better able to attract investment in target markets in base manufacturing and create needed jobs for the region.”

What’s next: Construction is underway with a likely project completion by June or July 2025. The additional tenants will likely be announced close to that date, Olson says. “With all of these (funding) groups, and with my board of directors’ support, we were able to make this project a success,” Olson says. “The building’s going to be filled, and we're going to have a bunch of new, high-paying jobs here in the region, which is desperately needed.”

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