Over the next few weeks, hundreds of area high school seniors will take part in commencement ceremonies and receive their high school diplomas. Some will be bound for college. Others make seek job training, or plunge directly into the workforce.
Many of them will not be coming back to the Upper Peninsula when there college education is completed. Others may be forced to leave the area directly after high school.
A long-standing problem in the U.P. is the area's inability to keep its young people here. The desire to live in the U.P. near family and friends is here. Jobs and opportunities are not.
Even before the economy turned sour, providing opportunities and employment to allow young people to remain here proved challenging. How many people do you know that have been forced to live elsewhere because the means to earn a living are scarce? Chances are you know at least one, and probably more. That person may be your own son or daughter.
Creating opportunities for young people to live and thrive here is everyone's business. Working together to build a strong economy not only makes the area vibrant, it helps keep extended families together.
There are strides being made to boost the area's economy. Last week, the city of Escanaba was briefed on a plan to develop the city's north shore area by helping existing businesses there to expand through tax incentives and other means. This has the potential to expand the number of jobs in an area that is already thriving.
Other area businesses are looking toward the future by exploring options in alternative energy - companies like Gladstone's VanAire. Indeed, Michigan as a whole is making a move to become a force in the green energy market. The U.P., with its natural resources, is an ideal location for such ventures. Again, this is an area that could provide future employment for many.
The U.P. has to be promoted if we hope to be a competitive force. From manufacturing to tourism, residents have to take every opportunity to make the U.P. a strong economic force. Maybe then, our sons and daughters won't have to leave the U.P. to find a good paying job.