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United States : Gov. Whitmer announces transportation economic development grant that will support 18 new jobs in Iron County's Bates Township.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has awarded a state transportation economic development fund grant that will support 18 new jobs in Bates Township, Iron County. The Transportation Economic Development Fund (TEDF) Category A grant totaling $198,500 will leverage more than $475,000 in private investment.

The Willis Lumber Co., LLC located on Larson Road, north of US-2 in Bates Township, produces hardwood finished lumber, cants for pallets, and railroad ties. The company is planning to purchase $200,000 of new equipment to increase the capacity of their sawmill. The investment will result in the creation of 12 new jobs.

Located just south of the Willis Lumber Co. on Larson Road, the Willis Family Maple Farm, LLC is a maple sap processing facility. The facility is near stands of maple sugar trees. The company plans to expand its production to new items such as maple cream and maple butter. The company is investing $275,000 in a new building and equipment to accommodate the production of the new products. The investment will result in the creation six full-time equivalent positions.

"I am pleased that we were able to work with these companies and our local partners to support the transportation needs of the companies' expansions," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. "This underscores the link between transportation investments and economic development. As a state, we need to invest more in our roads so that employees have safe routes to work and companies have unimpeded access to markets."

Larson Road, the only roadway access to both businesses, is currently a gravel road subject to seasonal weight restrictions. This limits the amount of raw materials and finished product both businesses can transport for several weeks each spring.

In order to address this restriction, and accommodate the expansion plans of both companies, the Iron County Road Commission will widen and reconstruct the roadway to all-season standards. The work will include a new asphalt surface, gravel shoulders and drainage improvements.

"The upgrade to Larson Road will guarantee year-round access to the maple syrup operations, allowing for a consistent flow of deliveries and shipments," said Ken Willis, owner of Willis Family Maple Farm, LLC.

"This project will allow all year access to the operations," said Don Willis, owner of Willis Lumber Co., LLC.

The total project cost is $297,500. The TEDF Category A share of the project cost is $198,500, or 67 percent. The remaining costs of $99,000 are being provided by Bates Township ($59,500) and the Iron County Road Commission ($39,500).

Enacted in 1987 and reauthorized in 1993, the TEDF helps finance highway, road and street projects that are critical to the movement of people and products, and getting workers to their jobs, materials to growers and manufacturers, and finished goods to consumers.

TEDF "Category A" or "Targeted Industries Program" grants provide state funding for public roadway improvements that allow road agencies to respond quickly to the transportation needs of expanding companies and eliminate inadequate roadways as an obstacle to private investment and job creation. Eligible road agencies include MDOT, county road commissions, cities and villages.

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Publication:Mena Report
Date:Mar 28, 2019
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