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Rural Development Grants Boost Northern Michigan Businesses

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Bay View Weddings
Great Lakes Tissue
Harbor Hill

Rural communities across the state are getting some financial help from a new round of state grants. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is awarding 20 different businesses a total of $1.7 (M) dollars. The goal is to boost their productivity and support rural communities.

The Rural Development Fund grants are landing in rural destinations– and most of them are grants worth $100,000. Sam Simpson is an owner at Harbor Hills Fruit Farms, which is also the parent company to Good Harbor Vineyards and Aurora Cellars. “We’ve been going through a really large growth phase in the last 5-7 years. We’re actually putting in 40 more acres of grapes this year.”

Vineyards in Leelanau County will add a new filtration system for their wines, and Simpson says it’s a big improvement to their current operation. “You would have to handle a wine four different times. And every time you’re handling a wine you have oxygen pickup, have to clean tanks… With this new piece of equipment we only have to touch the wine one time before it goes into the bottle. And so the fewer times you handle that wine the higher quality it’s likely to be. So we think this has potential to be a very large continual step in the right direction for quality. And it’s a huge labor savings as well.”

Simpson says it may ultimately lead to new hires because of faster production. “For us, this grant specifically is going to allow us to pull forward a project that might have been 2-3 years away. Which will give us more time with that equipment to get used to it and integrate it. We’re definitely going to continue to hire. But what those people will be able to handle is exponentially more per person than if we wouldn’t have this technology.”

Nearby Gallagher Farms is also on the list – they’ll be able to install a craft spirits distillery for their venue. And will get a new steam boiler – to boost its fermentation capacity.

Simpson says, “Any investment in value-add for agriculture is big up here. And around the state of Michigan. It’s a huge industry for us.”

Over at Great Lakes Tissue Company in Cheboygan – it’s a 2nd grant, on top of a previous $250,000 award for new equipment. Vice President Tori Beckett says, “Our by-product is plastic. The biggest problem with plastic is it has moisture in it. So this project is adding equipment to dry that plastic out. To make a usable, recycle material.”

“From a cost standpoint for the company this is scrap material. It’s really not of use to us. So it’s important for us to have the funds needed to get this equipment in place to make it valuable for other customers to use.”  Beckett says it also has larger implications. “We can increase our recycle incoming into the facility if we have an outgoing use for it. So we’re increasing our post-consumer use of recycled milk cartons, juice boxes, paper plates.”

For Great Lakes Tissue, new hires are also a possibility. “It may include new employees. Currently we have enough maintenance on here to install what we need. But the ongoing operation of the equipment will require new hires as well.”

Harbor Hills Fruit Farms

The Department of Ag and Rural Development says they received 139 grant applications – but only awarded 20 projects. A majority of them are in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

Beckett says, “Our family around here at the mill, it’s always important to have projects here keeping us moving forward in a positive direction. This project is another big step into the development of this facility.”

Simpson feels it sends a positive message. “The state’s recognition of its importance is huge to farmers and the local communities. Because the trickle down impact of ag is everywhere, even if people don’t realize it.”

The department received 139 proposals with requests totaling more than $11 million. Of those, MDARD awarded the following 20 projects totaling $1,700,000, leveraging a match of more than $6.7 million:

  • Apsey Farm LLC – $90,000 (Reed City) – Expansion of livestock processing and distribution.
  • Beaver Island Historical Society – $31,800 (Beaver Island) – Implement a tourism campaign, upgrades at Heritage Park and Blue Buffalo Camp Trail, development of a mobile app for tourists.
  • City of Ishpeming – $100,000 – Development along Malton Road to create an additional campground and to increase tourism to the region.
  • City of Negaunee – $82,600 – Multiple upgrades to the Teal Lake Shoreline Beach Area.
  • City of Stephenson – $41,500 – Wastewater treatment facility upgrades.
  • Gallagher Farms LLC – $100,000 (Traverse City) – Establishment of a craft spirits distillery at the farm as a complement to its current Bay View Weddings at Gallagher Farms destination wedding venue.
  • Gatien Farm and Forest Products Inc. – $100,000 (Powers) – Upgrade equipment with new highly automated machines for wood products.
  • Great Lakes Tissue Company – $100,000 (Cheboygan) – Expansion of new processing equipment to add value to the plastic byproduct of recycled poly-coated paper feedstock of cartons, paper cups, food trays, and post-industrial paper used in the 100% recycle context tissue manufacturing.
  • Harbor Hills Fruit Farm – $100,000 (Lake Leelanau) – Purchase of a crossflow filtration unit to enhance the quality of Michigan wines.
  • Lakeshore Depot L3C – $100,000 (Marquette) – Increase capacity for sales, distribution and value-added processing of Michigan-grown produce and agricultural products at a new FarmStop local food store.
  • Mackinac Bluffs Maple Farm Inc. – $100,000 (Pickford) – Construction and installation of a “sap house” that will contain equipment to collect and process maple sap for additional maple syrup production.
  • Noquemanon Trails Network Council – $100,000 (Marquette) – Expansion of parking spaces, a vault toilet facility, and develop a mountain bike skills area for all ages and abilities at Marquette South Trails.
  • Northern Michigan University – $100,000 (Marquette) – Implement a self-contained growing center proposal that aims to enhance and expand a new indoor agriculture degree program at the university.
  • Oceana County Economic Alliance – $100,000 (Hart) – Extension of the Village of Shelby’s municipal water service to workforce housing and remove barriers to talent attraction and retention.
  • Riveridge Land Company – $100,000 (Grant) – Construction of a housing unit for 30 additional H2A seasonal workers for the upcoming growing season.
  • TCWC LLC DBA Traverse City Whiskey – $100,000 (Traverse City) – Improve natural gas infrastructure and install new NG-compatible steam boiler to allow for increased fermentation capacity for production of distilled spirits.
  • The Cut Custom Processing LLC – $78,400 (Rosebush) – Expand pork processing capabilities at the USDA processing establishment.
  • Travel Marquette – $20,800 (Marquette) – Integration of online and print tools to assist citizens and visitors with hearing, vision, and mobility limitations navigate the county.
  • Tuscarora Township – $54,900 (Indian River) – Installation of additional public boat dockage at Marina Park.
  • Village of Breckenridge – $100,000 – Expansion of the Technology and Agribusiness Park to allow for additional lots.