Truckin’ with Meijer
Some of the big box stores… you know, the ones that have used legal means to pay less taxes, also do some good things for the community.
You remember don’t you, a few years ago when the Michigan legislature passed a new law to allow businesses to reclassify their buildings, and bla, bla, bla… they were able to lessen their taxable values? Many, including a few local ones, took advantage of the opportunity. Though it was a big hit to municipalities, like Marquette Township, it was legal. And who could criticize anyone trying to use the system to pay less taxes?
Beyond that, one of them has made a big impression with its considerable contributions to NMU’s Continuing Education & Workforce Development program. I’m talking about Meijer, and what they’ve done to help local students work towards CDL (commercial driver’s license) certification and a career on the roads, driving the big rigs.
You’ve probably seen the trucks rumbling around our local highways, adorned with the NMU and Meijer logos. Those trucks were donated to Northern by Meijer and their value cannot be overstated.
Stephanie Zadroga-Langlois, director of the program, says Meijer’s contribution was instrumental in getting it off the ground, and onto the highways. “The thought of building a fleet of trucks was daunting due to the expense. Meijer has been so supportive of NMU since they came to Marquette. They offered not only to give us 2 tractors and 2 53’ trailers but they also did the graphics on them.”
When we think of typical Northern curricula, truck driving isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind, but the program has done what many of us hope to see our schools do… prepare young people for good-paying jobs in stable industries.
“I get really excited for each group that finishes our program but that first group to go through in May of 2018 will always be the most special. They all had great jobs right after they passed their driving test.,” says Zadroga-Langlois. And why not? Rather than leave college with massive debt and limited opportunities in crowded fields, graduates of the truck driving school find themselves in demand, and on the road to success. (Sorry.)
According to Zadroga-Langlois, “Our sessions run year-round and are made up of both full day and half day options. We also offer CDL B training (dump truck, delivery truck, cement truck). You will be a licensed CDL A driver in 4-5 weeks depending on your class structure and a licensed CDL B driver in a week!”
And as soon as they can acquire a school bus, they hope to add training for that as well, and we know schools are begging for people to sign up for that gig. Got a school bus you’re not using?
Making the move to W. Washington
A big chunk of the 1200 block of West Washington is coming back to life, with new occupants coming into the former Office Max and Shopko buildings. It’s a bummer when big businesses like those… businesses which not only provide needed services and products but also employ a lot of people, close their doors.
It wasn’t out of the question to think both of those buildings could sit empty for many more years than they have already. Even though it looks like Marquette is booming as never before, bringing new life to old structures isn’t often in expansion plans. Usually, as we see time and time again when a business expands and needs more space, old buildings get short shrift and another new building goes up.
Credit to both the UP Health System and L&M Fleet Supply for recognizing the value in repurposing sites that are both structurally sound as well as conveniently located.
The old Office Max building will soon house UP Health System services still operating out of the former hospital property. That includes outpatient behavioral health, bariatric services, the blood donor center, business office, health information management and the school of emergency medical technicians (EMT).
Knowing the way the hospital puts considerable effort into the appearance of their facilities, I’m confident a dressed-up and remodeled Office Max building will be a nice addition to that block.
According to Janell Larson, Director of Marketing & Communications, fixing the parking lot was the first phase, “followed by a refresh of the building’s exterior, which is currently underway. Significant progress has been made, but much more work needs to be done.”
I’m sure they want to get that done as soon as possible. At least in time to get their employees out of the old hospital before the wrecking ball starts bringing it down.
Another Big Box
Next door is a considerably larger project in progress. The old Shopko building is huge, after having gone through multiple expansions over the years.
According to L&M Fleet Supply Marketing Manager Chad Snell, “It will be our largest store.” Snell, who was just in the U.P. helping open their new store in Escanaba, says work is ongoing inside the building, with exterior cosmetics still to come. A spring opening is what’s anticipated.
You may have noticed social media posts from L&M reaching out to the local workforce as they assemble staff for the new store. Again… more jobs to replace those lost when Shopko ended it’s decades long run. Snell says they’ll employ about 80 to 90 people.
Of course, there’s always the same question when a new store comes to town which is very similar to a number of stores already here… “Do we really need another one?”
Looking at L&M’s website, it appears they’ll be in direct competition with Menard’s, Lowe’s, U.P. Tractor Supply, and, well… just about everybody. According to Snell, “Our product mix includes power equipment, sporting goods, lawn & garden, home improvement, clothing & footwear, farm & pet, automotive, snacks & toys, gifts & housewares, a service center and more!”
Their slogan is “Quality at a Discount.” Competitive prices, combined with a location closer to more city residents, may be enough to make it a sustainable operation. Though there’ll be nothing small about the new store, Snell says customers will find a different experience. “We are a 3rd generation family owned company that is creating exceptional, modern-day retail experiences that are firmly rooted in our past. As we grow, we will always remain a small company at heart.”
Can we support another big store selling items already available up and down the road? Let’s hope so. We don’t need to see any more empty boxes.