There has been a remarkable amount of new development in Huron County in 2018. Recent progress ranges from new businesses, trails, parks, public programs and events, buildings, and many others in cities, towns, and villages throughout the Thumb.
Whether it be a much-needed update, something new, unexpected or common, Huron County is on the move. We want to show Michigan (and the rest of the world) that we are continually growing, improving, and taking steps to be a beacon for all those who live, work, and play here. Join us as we reflect on the recent developments from the year.
Before we dive into development in our specific communities, we thought you might like to learn about the progress that’s happening on a larger scale throughout the Thumb.
A number of initiatives are underway to make art (and it’s creation) a key element throughout Huron County. With the area’s ever-evolving beauty that includes miles of rolling fields, woods, and water almost everywhere you look, our area is a natural backdrop for art of all kinds. Not only is it a canvas, but the tip of the Thumb is also a destination for the creation of art of all forms, where makers are free to dream, find inspiration, and create away from the hustle and bustle of the city. From sculptures made from barns of a bygone era to tired public-facing walls rejuvenated with fresh, new paintings and so much more, art is quickly becoming a key element of our communities.
Perhaps, you’ve seen it for yourself or read about the art scene in Port Austin. This community, in particular, seems to have been receiving a noticeable amount of attention lately. However, this under-the-radar fame didn’t happen overnight. There has been a number of individuals and initiatives working behind the scenes for many years now and the culmination of their efforts are beginning to pay off. This success not only creates the drive for more art in the area but elsewhere in Thumb. You will read more about this in the communities below, but before we switch topics we thought we’d leave you with this.
The Huron County Economic Development Corporation (HCEDC) recently secured funding from the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA). The funds for the 2018-19 fiscal year were recently announced by the organization and includes many counties and organizations across the state. The HCEDC was awarded a grant for $19,500 to re-grant to Huron, Sanilac, St Clair and Sanilac Counties.. You can read more about it, here.
The area has an incredible amount of fiber optic lines installed. Host to two aggressive providers, Agri-Valley Services and Air Advantage, in many of our communities there is at least one broadband provider and often two or three. Sebewaing is the first, true, fiber to the home community in the state of Michigan providing gigabit speeds to every building in the village. Our fiber providers have kept building out our fiber resources so that almost anywhere you are you will have fiber.
At a time when significant areas of the nation are facing an impending water crisis, the Thumb has access to the largest body of freshwater in the world, the Great Lakes. There are a lot of things we could say about our water, like how fun it is to play in or how peaceful it is to watch and listen to, but the business of the matter is that we have a large water capacity that is not currently being met throughout certain communities in the Thumb. Couple this with the desire and need to fill more vacant properties and to bring more jobs to the area, and we have a solution for those water-thirsty businesses in the southeastern portion of the nation.
With all that being said there are initiatives in place to connect those businesses in need, like breweries for example, with our resources and opportunities. One, in particular, is the Forgotten Coast Collective is an initiative to get nano/micro/macro brewers interested in brewing in our space. With water from the Great Lakes, cool buildings to put small craft brewers in, and space to help ferment large brewers, the Thumb is a good fit for a budding craft beverage business.
Another initiative worth mentioning is the Huron Regional Water Task Force. The objective of the Huron Regional Water Task Force is to create awareness throughout the United States that the Port Austin and Bad Axe area have a tremendous asset in its sustainable resource of “high” quality water, with infrastructure that has excess capacity of more than half a billion gallons annually for new business ventures into our area.
Business is booming in Bad Axe! If you’ve driven through or visited in last year you would have noticed a flurry of new businesses being established. Here are a few you may or may not know about already.
Scheurer Hospital to Add New Clinic
Scheurer is expanding their footprint to better serve their customers. The new clinic to be located behind Walgreens on Buschlen Road, just off of North Van Dyke Road. The new facility is going to be for primary care and family medicine and will also feature the hospital's second walk-in clinic location, with ready-care clinics in Pigeon and Bad Axe. They are scheduled to break ground this fall and anticipates opening its doors as soon as late 2019. For more information and to stay up to date on the latest developments visit Scheurer Hospital online.
Peppers Mexican Grill
Peppers opened it’s doors in July of this year after remodeling and rejuvenating the former Burger King location at 769 N Van Dyke just north of the Northgate Shopping Center in Bad Axe. Patrons will enjoy authentic Mexican food like tacos, enchiladas, burritos, fajitas, and more. For more information visit Peppers Mexican Grill on Facebook.
Pete’s Bar (New Owners)
Pete’s has been a long time gathering place in Bad Axe. This summer in June Pete’s held a grand reopening with Craig and Daisy Harris taking the lead as new owners. You can find a bunch of new fun events going on there throughout the week like trivia on Thursdays and occasional Euchre games/tournaments and art parties in addition to special events like a RISK tournament and Murder Mystery. For more information visit Pete’s Bar on Facebook.
Live Simply Chiropractic (New Location)
Live Simply Chiropractic will be opening at their new location across from Bad Axe School on M-53 by the end of October. Here, Sandy will provide chiropractic adjustments and in office X-rays. The new property will also have additional professional office spaces for rent through Booms Properties.
Other business activity includes the opening of Mama’s Kitchen in the old Coffee Cup Plus building.
Changes have been made to the area by the breakwall in Caseville. They recently added a new seawall with the goal of improving accessibility for all. Behind the seawall, Caseville also added to the Breakwall Park (Pointe Park) during this year paving the parking lot and a concrete walkway, so everyone can get right to the water’s edge for fishing. Caseville also added a handicap accessible canoe/kayak launch and added lighting along the seawall and out along the breakwall. Currently, Caseville still has to finish their landscaping and other final touches but anticipates to have the entire project completed by the end of this year. The area is also working on a grant to improve the bathroom facilities. For more information, click here.
What goes better together than handmade liquor and homemade sweets? Shipwreck Distillery opened it’s doors to thirsty patrons in August of this year with a selection of vodka, rye whiskey, and rum in addition to their line of gluten free and delicious sweets. For more information visit the Shipwreck Distillery on Facebook.
Elkton has been a busy place this year in terms of new development. There has been interest in several vacant buildings in Elkton by businesses out of the area that are on their final inspection review with their corporate offices. Tower Automotive is completing some major improvements to their facility with large electrical upgrades as well as interior and exterior remodeling and new parking and break area's. The new owners of Nineteen Main (opened in 2017), Tony and Jean Loewe, have added a Bakery to their Ice Cream and Deli shop. They have been very busy with fresh daily baked bread, cherry and apple turnovers, banana bread and many other delicious baked goods. Read more below!
Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port School Building Additions & Remodel
Elkton- Pigeon-Bay Port Schools are completing the planning phase to undergo a number of improvements including the building of a new auditorium, field house, and innovation center to better suit the needs of the school, its students, and the community. Plans are to be in place and the project is set to begin by the end of 2018. For more information, click here.
Elkton’s Country Street Fair
Elkton’s Country Street Fair made it’s debut on September 29th from 10 am to 4 pm. Elkton’s effort to extend the season includes a fall event that’s fun for the whole family. The event included a vendor and farmers market, kid’s activities, live music, specials throughout town and more.
Phil's Diner, located in the former "Lunch Bucket" is completing their first year in Elkton. The establishment is owned by Phil and Holly Crown and was renovated to look more like a traditional diner and included a new setup in the kitchen. Phil has recently reported that business has been beyond what they expected and have had to hire additional help. For more information visit Phil’s Diner on Facebook.
Huron Youth Center
This is nearing the first full year the Elkton Lions Club have had the lease to manage the Huron Youth Center. They have been very busy with rentals, getting ready for their Saturday "Open Gym" season to begin. On specific Saturdays the Youth Center is open to kids/families and everything is free... hot dogs, chips, juice boxes, candy, snacks and lot's of fun, which will start this month. For more information visit the Huron Youth Center or the Elkton Lions Club on Facebook.
Over the past few years, the community of Grindstone City has been working towards improvements to the local businesses, while the Friends of Grindstone City DNR have made it their mission to create a beautiful, more accessible harbor and kayak refuge. The Friends of Grindstone City DNR were assisted by the Huron County Community Foundation when they received a grant to for $2,000 to revitalize the Grindstone City Harbor. Since receiving the grant, both peninsulas have been cleared of overgrowth and the line of sight from the shoreline to the water had been restored.
Harbor Beach is underway on a number of new and different projects throughout the community. A new and unique gazebo has been added to Backus Trail just north of North Park Campground. The painting of the lighthouse is currently in its first phase of the project with the second phase to be completed in 2019. The new pier and park a the old coast guard station broke ground this year and development is set to accelerate in Spring 2019.
In addition to all this progress the marina will undergo a complete remodel next spring as well and will be ready for the 2019 fishing season with new docks, a bathroom and shower remodel, new gas pumps and dispensers, and new cement and asphalt. The new Pavilion at North Park Campground is in it’s final phase of construction and will be available for rent for parties and events. The new brick building has a fireplace, large roll-open doors, and kitchen area and bathrooms. The Pavilion at the Grice House Museum which used to be located at North Park has now been fully refurbished and boasts great views of the lake from the top floor. See below for even more new developments in Harbor Beach.
New Winter Artist in Residence Program
Justin and Samantha Schnettler, of Business Soil in Harbor Beach, have partnered with the Community Chest, the City of Harbor Beach, The Huron County EDC and the Harbor Beach Chamber of Commerce in an effort to bring artists to the area for an Artist in Residence program. The city of Harbor Beach has offered the use of their rental cabins on the water by the marina to house artists who participate in the program.
What is Artist in Residence? This program is designed to bring artists into a community for a specific period of time allowing them to focus on their art projects. Artists receive housing and a stipend to help with living expenses, and in return, share their art with the community in some way, be it physical art, presentations of their project and experience to the community, or other means depending on the type of art. If you are interested in participating as an artist or want to learn more visit thumbartists.com
Renew Wellness Center
Set to open sometime in November, Stefeni Schelke and her husband Todd will open Renew Wellness Center, LLC in what was an empty storefront in downtown Harbor Beach (just west of the light). The business will offer personal training, massage therapy and group fitness. For more information visit Revive Personal Training on Facebook.
Pigeon has a new walking path and rental hall that’s been the highlight of much discussion lately. The walking path project was started 2 years ago, led by a community committee of the Village of Pigeon. To date $127,500 has been raised for the project that is located in the Pigeon Recreation Park. The Scheurer Path to Fitness is a 1k walking path that is 9 feet wide, and fully lit all around the track. The $100,000 project of lighting the path, was donated by Sempra Renewables, Barton/Malow, and Motor City Electric. Final touches of benches, donated by local churches, and service clubs will be completed in the spring. A large sign to recognize all the donors will be erected yet this fall.
In February of 2017 an agreement was reached for a 2 year lease between Pigeon VFW Post 2236 and the Village of Pigeon, was signed. The VFW Post has seen it's active member list on the decline, as well as aging members, and could no longer maintain the building. Since that time a complete renovation of the hall inside has taken place. which includes new bathrooms, new ceilings and lighting, insulation, paint, window treatments, and a complete new sound system, and video equipment. Renovation is taking place on the outside of the building to be completed yet this fall. The Hall is available for any kind of function like weddings, graduation parties, dances, business meetings, Lions Club, community fundraisers, and funeral dinners, and will hold up to 400 people comfortably. For rental information and pictures go to pigeonmichigan.com.
The Port Austin area is thriving with new developments. From new paths to plans for a splash pad, more art to an addition of a new group of residents, and then some, Port Austin is a place for progress. In addition to the completion of the new fitness park and the changes being proposed to Water Tower Park, which houses the butterfly house and a community garden, see below for even more new developments.
New Bike/Hiking Trail
Plans are underway for developing a wilderness cycling and hiking trail at the Huron County Nature Center. A new 5-mile trail has been laid out on an undeveloped 80-acre forest plot on the south side of Loosemore Road, across from the Nature Center headquarters. A wetland delineation review was successfully completed this summer, and final preparations are underway to construct the new trail. Stay tuned for updates, as they’ll be seeking volunteers and funding to make this off-road bike trail a reality. For more information visit: huronnaturecenter.org
New Artist In Residence Program
The Port Austin Artist In Residence project is focused on offering artist residencies to artists from the state, nation or internationally as well. The goal is to host artists who will use the space and time to create new works and have the opportunity to share these creations with the local community. This new space will be created in the former Bee Barn space.
The Detroit News recently featured the “Barn Art” project in an article. The article features architect and artist, Catie Newell, and her project titled “Secret Sky,” which is it’s construction stage and is set to be completed some time this fall. In addition, the Port Austin DDA received a $5,000 grant from the Regional Prosperity Initiative for the installation of several street sculptures in the DDA district. Fabrication will be complete in 2018 with installations coming in the spring of 2019. Also the Village is working on the next installation of the DIA’s “Inside Out” art effort where exact, weatherproof copies of art from the DIA’s collection will be installed at various locations around the community.
In the past month, Port Austin has welcomed forty-four new residents who have relocated from Puerto Rico and other areas throughout the United States to work at Huron Casting, Inc. in Pigeon, Michigan. Due to the shortage of potential employees in Huron County, Mr. Leroy Wurst, Founder and CEO of Huron Casting negotiated the logistics of hiring and relocation of Puerto Rican American citizens. He also purchased housing for his new employees in Port Austin, including the former Air Force Station just south of town, where renovations of the gymnasium and recreation facility will take place, as well as the remodeling of base housing.
It is expected that 75+ of these new residents will be in place by Thanksgiving. Annunciation of the Lord Catholic Parish in Port Austin hosted the employee orientation luncheon on Sept. 9, and a welcome coffee and danish reception with parishioners on Sept. 23. Fr. Craig Carolan, who is fluent in Spanish, has added a Spanish Mass at 12 pm at St. Michael's Church on Independence Street in Port Austin and is planning more fellowship and outreach opportunities for the new residents. This is a win-win-win for Huron Casting-Port Austin-and those who were selected as new hires after a rigorous screening and interview process conducted by an agency in Puerto Rico.
Fundraising for the new proposed Splash Pad at Bird Creek Park is still in motion with a number of fundraising events taking place throughout the year. The village has secured a lease for the park from the county. For more information or to learn how to make a donation visit the Port Austin Splash Pad on Facebook.
The Village of Sebewaing has seen an upswing in development in the last few years. 2018 has been fruitful with activity. One recent development has been the demolition of the old Lapeer Metal Stamping Building in September. The community was anxious to have the office building removed, which was the last portion of the property standing after previous demolitions, and the site was cleaned up for some proposed future development. In the future the site could house a 16,000 square foot senior-care home in addition to other businesses and services. For more information about the proposed senior-care facility, click here. A new sign has been placed pointing toward the “Historic Downtown River District” that was made possible by a grant. The beautiful new sign will help visitors find their 'Historic River District' (downtown). It's at the corner of M-25 and Main Streets.
There is also some new business activity happening in the village with a number vacant properties and buildings in the process of being rejuvenated and repurposed. The village of Sebewaing has been advised on a new barbecue restaurant that plans to open on the M-25 business corridor. In addition to this, the area welcomed a new business at 1 N Center Street, 3-Point Chiropractic and New Life Naturopathy. For more information visit 3-Point Chiropractic on Facebook. On Memorial Day weekend the Sportsman's Haven Museum, which features the waterfowl hunting and commercial fishing history of our area on Saginaw Bay, opened it’s doors to the public.
Cornerstone Venture & Sportsman’s Haven Museum
Two years ago, longtime residents Chris Deming and his wife purchased a hardware store in downtown Sebewaing that had been abandoned for several years and was in bad disrepair. After a lot of hard work they were able to finally open their new business on Memorial Day of this year. Called the Cornerstone Venture LLC and Sportsman's Haven Museum, it is a combination of an antique and (local) art store on half of one side and the museum on the other, which are kept completely separate in a unique manner. For more information visit the Cornerstone Venture on Facebook and check out this recent article from the Midland Daily News.
Last but not least, we have Ubly! Ubly has a few new additions in their community and in progress. The first is the Farmers Market! This year was Ubly’s first year hosting its very own farmers market at Veteran's Memorial Park. The market was held on Saturday mornings at 9 am. Plans are in the works for another market in the following year. Ubly Community Schools will undergo renovation next year with the passing of the Bond proposal this spring.