IT’S A LITTLE LESS obvious in the darkness of winter, when walking the kids and dogs is more labor than love, but if last summer was any indication, the demographics of the old Queen City are changing. Our quiet neighborhoods were teeming with young professionals, who found their way to Marquette either through birth, college, or a Google search for good places to live and raise a family.
Gone are the days of the dusty diner serving hearty helpings of meatloaf and mashed potatoes to hungry laborers. Now our downtown is sprinkled with gastro pubs, spice shops, bistros and a patisserie. The 2022 version of Marquette is hardly recognizable to folks who remember the stench of Cliffs Dow, the filthy coal-unloading dock at the lower harbor, or the recently dismantled smokestacks of two obsolete power plants.
The pandemic put a spotlight on areas of the country where congestion is just an irritating reminder of the cold and flu season, and not the dominant feature of a daily commute. And from the Mason-Dixon line to the deep south, temperatures routinely hitting triple digits and a Weather Channel special’s worth of meteorological disasters, has people looking north… towards the Upper Peninsula.
Online communications now make it possible to work on just about anything, from just about anywhere. And a lot of young people are choosing Marquette as their home base. With four distinct seasons and the Michigan outback at your doorstep, the recreational opportunities afforded here cannot be overlooked. Ask someone from one of the X, Y, or Z generations and they’ll probably cite hiking, snowboarding, mountain biking, or some other form of outdoor fun as one of their reasons for being here.
So, what does all this mean to Marquette? It means we’ve got a Front Street seat to a changing landscape of employment and environment. People who would have had to leave Marquette for greener pastures, or not even consider it when looking to relocate, can now put lifestyle before livelihood.
Entrepreneurs and remote workers are finding fertile ground here on the sandy shore of Lake Superior. Whether they’re creating a new business or have simply escaped the cubicle to work from home, a new generation is changing the face of Marquette. People who have opted out of the corporate workplace in search of their own piece of the pie, are finding they can hunker down and make a living here as well as anywhere.
Silas Talley, Creative Director at Ambitious Games cites that as one reason he’s able to do what he loves… here.
“Ambitious Games started as something I did in my free time while I was in college, but it quickly grew into something more than that. I love collaborating with people and sharing the creative process, so I started streaming on Twitch whenever I was coding a game. People started giving feedback, and we built a community around that. Now, it’s something I do because I love making things for our players.”
We’ve often heard it said that young people have to leave to find good work. The new crowd is challenging that theory. Talley says, “I grew up in Marquette, and I’d like to build a company that offers cutting edge tech jobs to the area.”
Jacob Soter’s venture started as a research project in college. He now manages SwimSmart Technology. “When I graduated, I was looking for some sort of sign for whether to go work for someone or work for myself. Then the pandemic hit, and my decision was easy.” And, of course, like most jobs, it’s harder than it looks. “Because I work for myself the work either gets done or doesn’t, there are no shortcuts.”
Various efforts and agencies are in place to foster entrepreneurship, including Innovate Marquette SmartZone, Invent@NMU, Campfire CoWorks, and the recently established Marquette IEM Group.
Co-founded by performance coach Matt Throop, seen at the top of the page conducting a seminar on money matters, Marquette IEM exists to help promising entrepreneurs navigate the complicated and costly waters of starting a business.
“American capitalism offers massive opportunities to grow yourself, your business and your community and many people are taking advantage of that,” Throop says. “I think there is a mass exodus out of big cities, and people are realizing the benefits of living in quiet rural areas and raising their kids with many of the beliefs and foundations that this country was built on.”
Throop believes entrepreneurship is about more than just financial success. “I encourage people to do things that bring value into the lives of others with a passion to improve the human condition.”
Mike and Jazmin Gorski are both involved in operations at Campfire CoWorks. According to Jazmin, this established downtown office and event address fills a need previously unavailable in Marquette.
“We provide a flexible workspace environment that not only allows entrepreneurs a place to work, but also the opportunity to meet other professionals at networking events and workshops. We also offer accessibility to community resources such as conference rooms, space to host events, and a fully equipped podcasting studio.”
Mike says, “Our goal is to be a local ecosystem contributor where knowledge, experience, and connections are made for people, not only who live here locally, but also those who consider Marquette their vacation destination.”
Certainly, improving one’s own life is the motivation behind a lot of entrepreneurship. And it knows no age limit.
According to Nicole Johnson, Director of Marketing & Communications for Innovate Marquette SmartZone and Invent@NMU, “While there is a generational gap in comfort with technology, the thought of entrepreneurs being young is definitely a misconception. Many people are chasing a partial retirement lifestyle and can choose entrepreneurship or remote work because of technology and local resources.”
Johnson adds, “Two of our graduating students and one former employee have all moved on to 100% remote positions for companies in different parts of the country, all while remaining in Marquette.”
Ah yes… remote work. It’s always been around, but the pandemic gave it the boost it needed to be viable and sustainable.
Kasey Scheibe is a Senior Revenue Accountant for SiriusXM Radio, working remotely in Marquette.
“When I came to Marquette my job was only on a temporary remote structure. I was motivated to show my workplace that I can be an effective worker from this location (and would argue that in some areas makes me a better worker) so that I had the leverage to request a permanent remote structure which I have now.”
According to Scheibe, working from home has additional benefits. “As someone who used to ride the subway 45 minutes one way to work, with three bags that included my gym clothes, two meals, and the work I brought home, I have found tons of value in the work-from-home structure. The time given back in my day has been the catalyst of my entrepreneurial adventures and has made me a more confident and efficient worker.”
A few of the many remote workers living here are featured in a current article published by Make it Marquette. You can find it at makeitmqt.com.
So, yes… Marquette is changing. It’s more youthful, professional, and high-tech. It’s confidently ambitious, and thankfully… welcoming. If you’re hesitant to jump into the entrepreneurial element, Campfire CoWorks’ Jazmin Gorski has an invitation for you. “Come on down to our space and we’ll have a seat available around the campfire.”
It’d be hard to find a warmer welcome than that.