What we have long feared is now just about upon us.
The Empire mine is closing. There are really no ifs, ands or buts about it. Barring a miracle, it’s shutting down.
Cliffs’ partnership with ArcelorMittal will end on December 31st which means there will be no more customers for Empire’s pellets. The mining costs at Empire were just getting too expensive.
Of course, there will always be the doubters, deniers and skeptics–“Cliffs is just making idle threats!”–but the evidence is overwhelming.
Executives have been meeting with Empire workers for the last few weeks and the message has been simple and direct: prepare for the shutdown by the end of the year, and for many of you, prepare to lose your job. You’ll get advance warning sometime during the year, but then you’ll be out.
Seniority and job classification will determine who stays and who goes. Some of the Empire workers will shift over to the Tilden mine.
Executives have also been meeting weekly to plan for a smooth and painless shutdown. It won’t be painless, but they’re doing their best.
How many employees will lose their jobs? Management won’t say and they’re hoping for some early retirements, but 500 is probably a reasonable guess. Five hundred well-paid wage-earners is a lot for Marquette County. The west end will probably be particularly hard hit.
Cliffs is working with the Lake Superior Community Partnership and other agencies to aid in the transition. Not any easy task.
NMU economics guru Tawni Ferrarini says the county will be hard-hit in the short run but will recover because it’s diversified its economy over the last decade.
Good for us. Not so good, unfortunately, for the hundreds of workers who may be forced to leave the area because they’ll need to put food on the table for their families.
You might have noticed there was no new construction at the Founders Landing site this last year. A sign of problems?
No, according to the developers. They’re just playing it conservatively. They want to make sure they have reservations on at least half of the units in a building before they start construction.
In fact, they have now sold all of the condos in the existing buildings (though at least one of the units is up for re-sale), and they have a couple of reservations for the next building, Gaines. The hope is, they’ll start building Gaines this spring. After that, it’ll be the final building in the development, Adams.
Prices on the condos–$300,000 to $800,000. A nice little tax infusion for the city of Marquette.
As for the office-retail-restaurant complex next to the Hampton Inn, construction won’t start until an issue with the 240 space parking garage there has been resolved. The city and the developers are trying to deal with that.
Marquette has a serious rooting interest in the upcoming Winter Olympics, and one woman, in particular, is a huge fan.
Shani Davis, the 31 year old speedskater who’s already won two gold medals and two silvers, went to Marquette High School and NMU while he was training for the Olympics.
In a recent interview with MotorTrend.com, he gave a shout-out to Aoy, the owner of the Rice Paddy. She’s a great friend who makes him great food, he said.
In fact, Shani and Aoy have known each other for more than a decade. She fed him well during his early years before he became an Olympic champion. He still comes up to visit once a year and stays with her and her husband, Greg Trick. He phones her throughout the year.
He considers her a second mother; she calls him “Brown Sugar.”
Aoy says Shani is everything a mother would want her son to be–helpful bringing the groceries in, helpful in cleaning the house. And his Olympic fame? She says it hasn’t changed him in the least. He’s the same, sweet guy he’s always been.
What’s his favorite dish at the Rice Paddy? Anything she cooks.
You got news? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org