(August 31, 2017) — It’s no secret that summer holiday weekends are great for tourist businesses. As evidence continues to accumulate showing the risks of the pipeline at the Straits of Mackinac, it is also one of the busiest Michigan tourism weekends of the year. Concerned business leaders remind Line 5 state decision makers, Attorney General Bill Schuette and Governor Rick Snyder, about the economic importance the Great Lakes hold within Michigan’s economy.
It’s more than just hotels that would suffer from an oil spill. Over 200,000 Great Lakes regional jobs are in coastal tourism and recreation. Much of northern Michigan’s economy is structured to serve tourists; apparel, recreation, farms, food, and breweries would all bear the brunt of an Enbridge leak into the Great Lakes.
Matt and Keegan Myers, co-owners of the popular outdoor apparel store M22, say “People love to recreate and celebrate the clean Great Lakes water on their summer holiday weekends. With our store just steps away from the beach, we depend on those vacationers. An oil spill anywhere in the Great Lakes would send those customers elsewhere, or keep them home.”
Travelers in Northern Michigan often take a break from the beaches and they look for other fun activities in the area. Juliette King, of King Orchards, says “Our orchard and farm markets are strategically located within a few miles of Lake Michigan, in the fruit belt but also along the major tourist thoroughfare. The lakes and surrounding ecosystems and waterways are crucially important to growing food safely and efficiently, not to mention that we rely on tourism as a major source of our customer base. Without clean water or without the customers to sell to, our family business would be in big trouble.”
Noah Marshall Rashid, of American Spoon makes fruit jams and preserves which sell in bounties on the downtown malls of small tourist towns such as Petoskey and Traverse City. “Labor Day weekend,” he says, “is an opportunity for an end of summer hoorah for so many travelers. When they want to take home the flavors of summer and savor them all year round, they stop by American Spoon but we know that the primary reason they are visiting our region is the Great Lakes. We cherish these lakes and we should be doing everything we can to protect them.”
“Located just two blocks from Lake Michigan, we’re truly a lakeshore-based business,” says Rick Schmidt, co-founder and operator of Stormcloud Brewing Company, a choice eatery for many craft-beer loving travelers in Frankfort. “In addition to the influx of beach goers and M-22 travelers we see all summer long, our city of Frankfort is host to a seasonal community of Great Lakes boaters and sailors who come from all corners of the globe. The purity and beauty of Lake Michigan, along with the coziness and cordiality of our community, brings people to Stormcloud’s doorstep time after time. It’s our responsibility to protect the natural resource that makes our fresh coast port town a Michigan treasure and indeed an international destination.”
The only way to get to the iconic tourist destination of Mackinac Island is ferry boat. Chris Shepler of Shepler’s Ferry understands that a spill would be the end of his business. “We are directly in the path of a Line 5 oil spill,” he says, “and the implications would put my third-generation family business out of business. We rely on the beauty of the pure clean water of the Straits of Mackinac. If that is gone, tourism here is gone.”
The business leaders speaking up are part of a network of more than 60 business leaders who have come together out of the common interest of protecting the Great Lakes. Cumulatively, the businesses in the network provide employment for over 3,000 people in the region. In a recent presentation on “Alternatives to the Straits Pipeline” in Holt Michigan, engineering contractors discussing the threats of the pipeline pinpointed the location of the pipeline as the primary reason for its inherent risk. The Great Lakes Business Network understands the role of oil in our contemporary society, but also understands that there are right places and wrong places for pipelines. They say that not only is protecting the waters the right thing to do, but because of Northern Michigan’s economic dependence on tourism, it is the financially responsible thing to do.
For a full list of GLBN members and their statements on Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac, visit glbusinessnetwork.com/members.