Since the closure of several mining sites in the 60s the Western Upper Peninsula has never been same. Around 5,000 jobs were lost which lead to an outflow of young people leaving to work elsewhere.
"They never did bounce back. They left town and left us with some stamp sand we had to take care of. Over in Ontonagon, Gogebic, and Iron counties you know the Iron mines left and I don't think they ever bounced back either," said Kim Stoker, Director of Western UP Planning & Development Region.
Stoker says the region has held their own even though there hasn't been any drastic growth or decrease. Currently there are more than a hundred manufacturers employing more than a thousand people throughout the six counties that make up the region.
Some of the most well-known include Northern Hardwoods in Houghton County, Oldenburg Group in Iron River, Pettibone and Certainteed in Baraga county employing anywhere from fifty to a couple hundred residents. Over the last decade some companies like Jacquart Fabric has changed the way they market their products to attract more people.
"In a sentence would be it's not grandpas hat anymore, in a longer statement we took it to women we took it to fashion," said Bbo Jacquart, CEO Stormy Kromer.
So what else is sustaining the economy of the western region?
With an ageing community the healthcare industry is becoming a top employer with more than two thousand working in that field. Michigan Tech is also an asset for the region as it brings in students from across the world training in technology and engineering fields.
So what exactly is hindering local growth? Stoker says the cost of transportation is a big one making it more expensive for companies to set up shop. And, the amount of skilled laborers is dwindling.NMU Economics professor Tawni Ferrarini says these are challenges the entire U.P. faces.
She says it's all due to the remoteness of the area and distance from a major metropolitan hub.
Ferrarini says the future lies in the creation of technology based businesses that export their product as it brings new money to the area.
"An economy that supports businesses that can do business physically out of their home or building and they can do it all over the world. Then, we get back to the internet connection, bandwidth issues, cellphone coverage. Then, we will be able to grow that part of our economy," said Ferrarini.
There's also the possibility of mining coming back to region. According to Stoker, there are plans of starting copper mining at White Pine which could employ hundreds.