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Manistee, Soo receive investment in local tourism upgrades

The International 500 Raceway in Sault Ste. Marie
Sault Ste. Marie Convention & Visitors Bureau
The International 500 Raceway in Sault Ste. Marie. (Photo: Sault Ste. Marie CVB)

$2 million will boost tourism by enhancing the Sault Ste. Marie International 500 Raceway. $850,000 will go to Manistee's downtown riverwalk.

Manistee and Sault Ste. Marie are getting some investment in their tourism industry, thanks to money coming from the state.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant program is distributing $2 million to boost tourism by enhancing the Sault Ste. Marie International 500 Raceway and $850,000 to boost tourism in Manistee by upgrading the downtown riverwalk.

The improvements in Sault Ste. Marie will focus on constructing new roads, a parking lot, and vendor buildings that will help make the raceway more accessible.

Mayor Don Gerrie called the raceway a capstone for the winter season but the upgrades will help make it a year-round venue for things like outdoor concerts.

“I think, probably 50 or 60 percent of our GDP is based on tourism,” Gerrie said. “And the I-500, is the biggest event of the winter. And so that will certainly help to round out our tourist season.”

The EDA investment will be matched with $513,000 in local funds and is expected to create or retain 50 jobs and generate $2 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates.

“This project in Sault Ste. Marie expands opportunities at an important tourism asset in the state’s Eastern Upper Peninsula region that will provide new jobs, attract more tourism dollars and build economic resiliency for decades to come," said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo.

In Manistee, the funding will provide safety upgrades and improve access and walkability on the south riverwalk bringing new visitors to the region and stimulating business and job growth, according to a press release from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office.

The EDA investment will be matched with $240,000 in local funds and is expected to create or retain nearly 50 jobs and generate $178,500 in private investment.

“This investment to upgrade Manistee’s downtown riverwalk will support the local economy and create or retain 50 good-paying jobs,” Whitmer said. “In the last year, we have worked across the aisle in Michigan to make the largest one-time investment in state and local parks in Michigan history, supporting local tourism and recreation driven economies across our great state.”

This project is funded under EDA’s $240 million competitive American Rescue Plan Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation program. EDA awarded $510 million in grants to all 50 states and territories in 2021.

The two programs are designed to accelerate the recovery of communities that rely on the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation sectors.

At the end of May, EDA closed all of its American Rescue Plan programs for applications.

The $3 billion program funding will be awarded on a rolling basis through the end of this month.

Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.