Funds sought for community building

ESCANABA — A crowdfunding campaign for the Community Welcome Center & Museum was launched Thursday. A press conference focusing on the campaign was held at the chapel in the Antique Village at the U.P. State Fairgrounds.

The new facility will house offices for the Delta County Chamber of Commerce, Delta County Builders Exchange, Delta County Economic Development Alliance and the U.P. State Fair; a U.P. Welcome Center; and the U.P. Veterans Museum and Webster Marble “Inventing the Outdoors” Museum. The crowdfunding campaign will allow for the first phase of the project — consisting of the Webster Marble “Inventing the Outdoors” Museum, the U.P. Welcome Center and the offices of the Delta County Commerce Center – to be completed.

The campaign is being run through the Michigan-based crowdfunding website “Patronicity.”

“We have until April 30 to raise up to $50,000 that will go to the construction of our building — your building,” Executive Director of the Delta County Commerce Center Vickie Micheau said. The project will win a matching grant through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s “Public Spaces, Community Places” program if the campaign reaches its goal by the date.

People who donate at least $500 to the campaign will be honored on a wood-etched donor wall made by Kobasic Creations in the new building. Along with this, donors will get an early look at the facility in early August; this will take place before its grand opening, scheduled for just before 2019’s U.P. State Fair.

Multiple donors announced their contributions to the campaign Thursday. Among these donors were Niki Skerbeck and John Burrows of Skerbeck Entertainment Group, who donated $10,000.

“This obviously … shows their commitment to this facility,” Micheau said of the donation. Other donors who contributed to the campaign Thursday include Delta County Commissioner and Delta County Representative to the U.P. State Fair Authority David Rivard (who donated $1,000 and presented another $1,000 donation from his wife Sharon), Paul Fix of Northern Insurance Agency (who donated $1,000), Ken Dillinger of U.P. Engineers & Architects, Inc. (who donated $1,000), Clay Peterson, April Stropich and Scott Ravet of mBank (who donated $2,000), Dennis Moberg of the Marble Plus Knife Club (who donated $2,000) and Ann Jousma Miller (who donated $1,000).

Along with funds from the campaign, $1,000,000 has been donated for the facility by the John and Melissa Besse Foundation and $500,000 in state funding was put towards the project.

A variety of local officials spoke during Thursday’s press conference. Delta County Administrator Philip Strom thanked the Delta County Commerce Center and other organizations involved with making the facility a reality.

“I can tell you, in talking to our commissioners, I want to reaffirm our support for this project and we look forward to continuing to find ways to reaffirm that support,” he said.

Rivard spoke about the project’s origins.

“In all honesty, we got approached by a veteran who said ‘you’ve got memorabilia from different wars, the vets are passing on, these things are going in the garbage,’ and then he said, ‘we would like to put a U.P. museum up here,'” Rivard said. Representatives of the Delta County Commerce Center, the Economic Development Alliance, Visit Escanaba and the Escanaba Downtown Development Authority also spoke during the press conference.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the facility was held during the 2018 U.P. State Fair, and work began last fall. Up until mid-February, construction on the building was on schedule.

“With the snow and cold weather, we are now running a little behind,” Micheau said. The project is now approximately one week behind schedule.

Exterior walls for the new building started going up last Friday. The commerce center, along with U.P. Engineers & Architects and Roy Ness Contracting & Sales, is currently determining what areas inside the facility should look like.

“We are currently deciding on the interior finishes for the Welcome Center, U.P. Veterans Museum and offices,” Micheau said.

According to Micheau, Dennis Pace (curator of artifacts for the Webster Marble “Inventing the Outdoors” Museum) visited the area recently to review the final details of the museum. She went on to say people can take a virtual tour of the exhibit by finding “Delta County, Michigan — Chamber of Commerce” on Facebook.

“I am anxious for the community to get the first glimpse of this spectacular exhibit,” she said.

For more information about the crowdfunding campaign or to make a donation, visit