A story in Tuesday's Detroit News about Escanaba and our upcoming sesquicentennial celebration left us a bit perplexed. We wonder if the author was actually in Escanaba or some other town by the same name. Titled "Town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula celebrates birthday, harkens back to better times," it paints a picture of Escanaba being a dreary little town crippled by high unemployment, closed businesses, disgruntled residents and a general lack of any opportunity or a future. The article suggests, citing Escanaba's sesquicentennial celebration, that Escanaba is a place where residents would rather live in the past than face the town's dark future.
As Paul Harvey used to say, "now for the rest of the story." What disturbed us about this account of Escanaba is it failed to paint a complete picture of our town. It was one-sided - focusing on the negative and failing to show the positive, vibrant and growing side of Escanaba.
There is no disputing facts stated in the story - we have high unemployment. Some of our businesses have closed. We have been losing population over the years. These are problems faced by many, many communities throughout the nation - including Detroit and Escanaba. These problems, however, do not define what Escanaba or its residents are.
Unlike the picture painted in the Detroit News, we are not a depressed community on the brink of disaster. The area has vibrant businesses like Engineered Machined Products, VanAire, Stewart Manufacturing and Besse Forest Products just to name a few. NewPage has emerged from bankruptcy and nearby Manistique Papers has a new owner and new life after facing imminent closure. Local officials work diligently to bring new businesses to the area. We do have a high jobless rate, but there is opportunity here for those who want to put out the effort and ingenuity to take advantage of it.
Can we do better? Yes. Are we on the brink of disaster? Not by a long-shot. Business has struggled here as it has in the rest of the country during the Great Recession. There is no denying, though, that times are getting better. New businesses are opening here nearly every week. Just take a look at the weekly business page in this newspaper and you will find the answer.
Despite what the article stated, tourists do come here - many returning again and again.
We all know the advantages Escanaba has that the Detroit News failed to capture in its article. We have a sound educational system with Bay College as a cornerstone. Recreational opportunities of all types abound and we are lucky enough to experience some of the most breathtaking beauty Mother Nature has to offer.
This is the Escanaba the Detroit News failed to see and portray in its article.
The focus of the article, at least judging from the title, is our sesquicentennial celebration. The article seemed to take Escanaba to task for hiding in our history as a way of dulling the pain of the future. "By reaching deep into the past, event organizers are trying to retrieve something ephemeral - better times. Like most older birthdays, the past conjures better images than the future," the article states.
Our sesquicentennial celebration is about the past. It's a look back at the 150 years that have come to be Escanaba. Escanaba's sesquicentennial is a celebration of the past. We are proud of our history, not ashamed of it. We make no apologies for celebrating our heritage. It is what ultimately makes us a strong community.
Perhaps the most glaring omission in the article was Escanaba's greatest treasure - its people. The citizens of Escanaba are kind and generous. We help our neighbors and lend a hand to strangers who find themselves in need in our city. We appreciate each other and our way of life. We can walk the streets safely a night. This is a good place to live.
We would like to extend an invitation to the author of the article to come back to Escanaba. We would like to have the opportunity to show you all of the things you may have missed. We want you to talk to people here that are helping the area to grow. We want to show you the real Escanaba. We will welcome you with a friendly smile and open arms because that is the type of community we are.
We look forward to seeing you soon.