Initiative gives Republic economic group a boost

by Sam Eggleston

The Republic Economic Development Administration (EDA) has new life, thanks to the refreshing breath of the Republic Rainbow Initiative.
The Initiative, which was started in February, merged with the formerly defunct Republic EDA in late April with hopes of increasing the economic standing of the small western Marquette County town.
“We’re trying to turn the blue sky ideas into shovel-in-the-ground activities,” said Gary Johnson, Republic Township supervisor and a member of the rejuvenated economic development administration.
The Rainbow Initiative, which carried its members to the new EDA platform, includes citizens Bill DeGenaro, Chuck Hurst, Tom Sandblom and Dan Mitchell.
Their objective? To expose Republic resources and potential, and encourage developers to look at Republic as a financial profit center. Republic Township currently is home to approximately 1,100 residents.
According to statistics provided by the Republic EDA, if a circle seventy miles in diameter were drawn with the town of Republic at its center, the large majority of the Upper Peninsula’s population would be encompassed. The cities included in that area include Marquette, Negaunee, Ishpeming, Houghton, Hancock, Iron Mountain and Kingsford.
“It’s been long believed that Republic is out of the way,” said Mitchell, who resides in Republic and is the Downtown Development Authority director for the city of Ishpeming. “The truth is, it’s very centrally located when you look at the population centers of the Upper Peninsula.”
The EDC is working hand-in-hand with the planning commission to change some of the land-use zoning to promote more business growth. Currently on the table for near-future expectations are a gas station that features a convenience store and a snowmobile repair bay as well as a sixteen-bed assisted living facility.
Long-term goals include the potential of a private technical college and projects including renewable energy and recycling.
“Republic has a lot to offer,” Johnson said. “With the EDA reactivated, there is a lot of potential for what can be accomplished here.”
Other projects that were being considered by the original Republic Rainbow Initiative founders and are expected to remain on the table include further development of the Republic Wetlands Preserve, which encompasses about 2,300 acres of former mining land. The southern part of the preserve, including a circular trail about two miles in length, was opened to the public in 2008.
The group also is expected to continue promoting the development of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, a conceptual forty-eight-mile, multi-use trail that has plans of stretching from Republic to Marquette.
Of the Initiative’s initial meeting, Bill DeGenaro was happy with the reaction from the area’s residents.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the level of enthusiasm demonstrated by supporters and community members,” he said. “Pride in our town, plus enthusiasm, will guarantee success.”
The Republic EDA is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 entity.

— Sam Eggleston

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