Bell’s a step in the right direction

Last week was a good week for Escanaba.

Bell’s Brewery picked the city as the site for its latest expansion – a 10,000-square-foot brewing and bottling plant in the Whitetail Industrial Park. On Thursday, the Escanaba City Council sold the Kalamazoo-based brewer the land it needed to expand here – dropping the price by $5,000 as a good will gesture. The response from the community to Bell’s decision to come here was overwhelmingly positive and the company is being welcomed with open arms.

The effort did not go unnoticed and the community was praised highly by Bell’s Brewery owner Larry Bell.

This is a step in the right direction for the area – and many more similar steps are needed.

What Bell’s found in our area was a place that projected a positive atmosphere for business – an area that sent the message that new business ventures and expansions are welcomed and nurtured here.

The bottom line – the prize – is jobs and economic growth. Like many other places in this country, they are needed here. Granted, the Bell’s plant is only anticipated to bring five new jobs to the area. By locating here, however, it is bringing a while lot more. Constructing the plant is estimated to cost $2.5 million. A good share of that money will be spend here, along with construction jobs the project will bring. That will have an impact on our local economy.

Once the plant is built Bell’s will buy and use local goods and services, not to mention the boost to the local tax base.

Everyone involved in bringing Bell’s Brewery here and making the company feel welcome deserves praise. Courting progress is something the entire community has to do. We not only need jobs – we need to compete for jobs and the business ventures that bring them.

Locally, though, it looks like we are falling behind. Here’s where we stand. According to the latest unemployment figures released by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, Delta County’s jobless rate was 10.2 percent in March.

How do other similar Upper Peninsula counties fair in their jobless rates? Our neighbor to the west – Dickinson County – had an 8.4 percent jobless rate. To the north, Marquette’s jobless rate was 7.8 percent. Our southern neighbor, Menominee County, once again had the lowest jobless rate in the U.P. – 6.4 percent.

Our neighbors, with the exception of Schoolcraft County and its 15 percent jobless rate, all have significantly lower unemployment rates than Delta County.

These figures are for March, but if you follow jobless statistics over the long term these rankings are pretty consistent.

It would seem that we have some catching up to do. Efforts like those that brought Bell’s Brewery here, however, truly are a step in the right direction. If we as a community continue the efforts and enthusiasm of last week, there could be many more steps in the right direction in Delta County’s future.