Hancock and Houghton Meet for the Area Joint Council Meeting to Share Updates – Keweenaw Report

April 4, 2024 | by magnews24.com

Hancock and Houghton leaders met last night for the two cities’ joint council meeting. Both cities asked guest Dave Rowe to stop by and share what the MTEC SmartZone has been working on with entrepreneurs and existing partners. The business incubator plays a large role in both Hancock and Houghton’s redevelopment. As the western Upper Peninsula’s business incubator, MTEC SmartZone works with entrepreneurs to turn ideas into viable businesses through programs like Smart Start, and Transformative Technologies. Other ways MTEC supports the community’s growth start with helping individuals connect with career opportunities with Talent Bridge, and Return North.

City Manager Mary Babcock followed Rowe with an update for the city of Hancock. Most recently she has been working with the city council and planning commission to update the city’s master plan. A focus that Hancock hopes to employ to promote the city would follow the Main Street program. Hancock may consider joining the program, Babcock added, the city has set similar goals in the past that the program uses to encourage public engagement and promote an area’s growth. In the past few years, Hancock has grown economically from 24 businesses to 57.

Another goal of the city will focus on the development of properties on the former Finlandia University campus. Hancock has held a handful of tours with potential developers that have shown interest. Babcock says that Mannerheim Hall has been rented as storage, helping to cover some of the 30,000 dollars that were spent to purchase three buildings. Finn Hall will become a main focus of the community if Hancock can complete all of its plans for a potential community building/third place.

Babcock ended the city’s update with news that the business and technology park. She said Hancock hopes to see two new businesses set up shop in the area after positive interactions with the city realtor. More details would still need worked out, and lots purchased, before shovels can touch dirt.

Houghton City Manager Eric Waara expressed excitement for the upcoming summer. After long construction seasons that included completing the MDOT College Avenue project, waterfront pier construction, and parking deck demo, Houghton has plans to relax a little. Summer will include the Locavore Festival, Bridgefest, Keweenaw Brewfest, and many more festivities will return.

The city also looks forward to implementing the new social district. As soon as weather permits and signs are ready, the Department of Public Works will place the district’s boundary marker signs around downtown.

Houghton will still have several projects completed over the summer, however in scale and location, upcoming work should be easier to navigate for residents and visitors.

Finally, both cities hope to begin requests for proposals on the area transit study. Last year Houghton and Hancock were awarded funds to study the public transit patterns for both cities to find solutions for challenges both departments experience. The public transit study RFP has an advisory committee made of MDOT and transit representatives from both city departments and city leaders.


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