In Charlevoix and Petoskey, pricey housing leaves businesses without workers

Ben Slocum is the managing partner of Beards Brewery in Petoskey. He has several full time and seasonal positions open that he can’t fill. In one instance, he hired and trained a brewer who moved to Detroit after only three months because he couldn’t find a place to live. (Bridge photo by Riley Beggin).

August 2019: High housing costs in Traverse City now hurting more industries in region

Ben Slocum is exactly the kind of person Michigan politicians can’t stop talking about.

He’s 34, college-educated and, unlike his five siblings, moved back home to Petoskey to start a small business. That business — Beards Brewery on the city’s quaint main drag — has been successful in a town full of thirsty vacationers. But it hasn’t boomed in the way it could for one reason: It’s desperately understaffed.

“We have 12 full-time, year-round positions available right now, and there are not enough people to fill those positions,” Slocum said.

Worker shortages are in every politician’s stump speech this election season, usually tied to a call to improve skilled trades training. While that’s certainly an issue in northwest Michigan, nearly two dozen people in Petoskey and Charlevoix told Bridge their workforce woes are largely rooted in a lack of affordable housing.

Related: Traverse City grows as local workers search for a place to call home

Slocum said he recruited, hired and trained a brewer who only stayed on the job for three months before hightailing it down to a brewery in Detroit because he couldn’t find a permanent place to live in the area.

“We put in a lot of time, energy and expense into training in our methods and standards only to immediately lose him to someone else,” Slocum said. “And we couldn’t blame him, he couldn’t find a place to live.”

Beards has had to put off expanding the business’s dinner hours because he lacked staff to pull it off, a complaint heard in Charlevoix and Emmet County — restaurants, construction companies, manufacturers, hospitals, casinos and even the local Arby’s have felt the pressure of a worker drought.

Even the local Arby’s can’t find staff to work enough hours to stay open full time. This sign was posted recently in the window of the Arby’s on West Mitchell Street in Petoskey. (Photo courtesy of Ben Slocum)

Bridge Magazine visited Petoskey, Charlevoix and Boyne City last week as part of Bridge and The Center for Michigan’s 2018 Truth Tour, which aims to engage and inform Michigan residents on the biggest challenges facing Michigan voters ahead of this November’s statewide elections.

Multiple business owners said they have had potential employees turn down jobs because they couldn’t afford to live in the area. Others said their workers commute from towns as far away as the Upper Peninsula where housing is cheaper.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, total employment in Charlevoix and Emmet counties has grown steadily since the Great Recession. Now, unemployment is a full percentage point lower in this region than the state’s.

Meanwhile, wealthy retirees moving into the area and a boom in short-term rentals like AirBnb (among other reasons) have made housing notoriously out of reach for the area’s lower wage workers. Networks Northwest, a regional economic development group, estimates a minimum wage employee would have to work 65 hours a week to afford an average rental unit in the region.

The resulting environment puts local workers in a crunch. Those who have access to a reliable car (there’s very limited public transportation in the economic hubs of the counties) can live in townships where the rent is cheaper and commute in, but many choose to find work downstate, where housing options are more plentiful.

Beards Brewery on East Lake Street in Petoskey should be flourishing — it recently took on a new location and a patio grill for outdoor dinner service. But owner Ben Slocum couldn’t use it like he’d hoped because he can’t find employees to man it. (Bridge photo by Riley Beggin)

“The workforce shortage is really spanning all labor sectors. The healthcare industry… anything relating to housing construction, and manufacturing is feeling it, and it’s even starting to show up in things like teachers,” said Carlin Smith, president of the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Mark Heydlauff, Charlevoix City Manager, explained the cyclical nature of the problem:

“If we had more construction workers and electricians and plumbers we would be able to build more housing more quickly and probably bring down the cost,” he said. “But at the same time we can’t bring enough of those people up here to work to alleviate the problem.”

Short millions in affordable housing

Smith, of the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce, is a part of a housing initiative called the Little Traverse Bay Housing Partnership, which aims to begin addressing at the problem in their area.

They started looking at a property in Harbor Springs, where they hoped to build 15 duplex-style units that they could sell for up to $120,000 — reasonably within the price range of a working couple making around $30,000 a year.

In order to sell for that price after accounting for the cost of land, building and other associated costs, the deficit was shocking: They’d need $2 million more to make it feasible.

“That’s how far the gap is,” Smith said. “That was just like somebody hit me upside the head with a board.”

So they decided to pivot. Now, they’re working with lenders, landowners and builders who can provide services at lower rates and local governments to try to get a property tax reduction for the project.

“In other words, to find a whole lot of people to give a little to close the gap that’s out there,” Smith said. All this, for only 15 units of housing.

“That's just a drop in the bucket of what we need from a housing demand. Technically, we probably need to raise $20 million to really have any kind of impact on this. And I don't know where that kind of money comes from.”

McLaren Northern Michigan hospital is the largest employer in Emmet County. Derek Peters, Vice President of Human Resources at the hospital, said they are having trouble filling nursing and medical technologist positions, both of which are in high demand across the country. Hospital costs have been rising as they’ve been forced to bring in temporary help to fill the positions.

“I think we miss out on applicants, period, because of (the lack of affordable housing). If we had inventory in that affordable range, we would probably see our applications drive up as well,” Peters said.

Charlevoix and Emmet counties are among several in northwestern Michigan that offer scenic views, dining, shopping and a bevy of outdoor activities. Meanwhile, the employees that keep those services running are often struggling to find a place to live. Here, the sun sets over the South Pier Light Station in Charlevoix. (Bridge photo by Riley Beggin).

Luring families

Two years ago, the hospital decided to form a team dedicated to recruiting talented healthcare providers to the area and ensuring they stay. They connect job candidates to various community resources to show them how their personal life could flourish in Petoskey and even line up tours of local schools for their children when they prepare for their move. Now, the hosptial's nurse and physician turnover rates are lower than national benchmarks.

David Zechman, President and CEO at McLaren Northern Michigan, said they are also working to encourage local developers to “take that business risk to build that housing; $250,000, maybe $300,000 homes, 3-bedroom houses in communities where young families and young professionals can live.”

“I don’t think if this gets solved in this area sometime within 10 years we’re going to have a huge drain of skilled labor both technically and intellectually from the area.”

Plenty of other public and private bodies in each county are working to chip away at what is in many ways a massive, complex and now longstanding problem, said Sarah Lucas of Networks Northwest.

Her organization is working with the city of Charlevoix to change zoning regulations to make it easier to develop workforce housing. Boyne City has an event this week to discuss how businesses and the community as a whole can combat the lack of affordable housing. Nearby Leelanau County has benefitted from nonprofit Leelanau REACH (Resources for Economical and Accessible Community Housing), which seeks creative solutions to making housing more affordable such as working with community members to find donated land for development.

Both Heydlauff, the city manager of Charlevoix, and Beards co-owner Slocum say tax abatements could be one of many ways to begin addressing the issue at a governmental level.

“We all need to sacrifice a little bit for the greater good. It’s basic social contract,” Slocum said.

“I think we’re risking our base economy with how bad it’s starting to get. I think we’re nearing the tipping point.”

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Tue, 08/28/2018 - 9:48am

It's spelled Leelanau...not Leelenau. Easy to correct in this day and age of Internet-based news. ;)

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 10:10am

glad that's cleared up... TYVM for that.... :>)

Riley Beggin
Tue, 08/28/2018 - 12:21pm

Thank you for pointing that out Charlene! It has now been updated. My apologies. 

JEG 123
Tue, 08/28/2018 - 11:28am

Earlier in the spring, i went to LOWES in Petoskey. The garden center was chained, and posted to use the front main exit due to a lack of employees. It was a pleasant shopping experience though. A very knowledgeable person greeted me to say they would help me find my way for the list of stuff i needed. She did. Actually, i think I spent less money. Not good for LOWES.

Darlene Wandrie
Tue, 08/28/2018 - 11:29am

My suggestion is for the county and townships to give up property they own around both counties for low income housing. Even the city of petoskey has property they can use. Seems to me if they want to grow the economy this would be a solution.

Dennis Hoshield
Tue, 01/08/2019 - 4:36pm

It may not be a solution, but it.would certainly help the land portion... Which is a big part of the equation. Not that I don't like their efforts bit the land conservation groups... Getting land donated in perpetuity... Only makes available land to build on, more scarce... Or, certainly more expensive!

Barry Visel
Tue, 08/28/2018 - 12:24pm

Day Care subsidies, more Pre-K funding, more K-12 funding, minimum wage increase, Senior Services, roads and infrastructure funding, college loan/debt assistance, housing subsidies, environment funding, tax break solutions (which simply lowers the tax revenue we need for the listed items), etc. Has anyone tried to do the math to aggregate the cost of all the things we’re told we need, and then tried to figure out if we can afford them? We read “need more money for this or that” stories all the time. Maybe they’re starting to be read by deaf ears, if they’re read at all. What do you think?

Kevin Grand
Tue, 08/28/2018 - 2:46pm

I would summarize the problem as this: Businesses are NOT paying the necessary wages/benefits that they should to attract the help that they seek.

Make the necessary increases to the above or forfeit any right to complain.

To ignore this is to ignore basic economics.

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 7:23pm

Thank you Kevin
Was waiting to see if anybody else gets it.
“Networks Northwest, a regional economic development group, estimates a minimum wage employee would have to work 65 hours a week to afford an average rental unit in the region.”
Raise your damned wages!
Wealthy retirees will have to pay another couple bucks for their Smokehouse Bacon Beefy Whatnot...

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 2:18am

I totally agree that wages need to be increased during a worker shortage. This is how the US had employers start offering benefits, including insurance, after WWII.

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 11:16am

They are talking about building $250K to $300K houses for employees making what, ten buck an hour ? What a joke.

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 9:06am

The $250K to $300K homes are to attract medical professionals for McLaren.

John Q. Public
Tue, 08/28/2018 - 2:49pm

All that's questionable in the column would take another column to address, but the worst part is easily the one claiming that a household with annual gross income of $30,000 can afford a $120,000 home. Use that model with fifteen families, and I guarantee you'll have twelve foreclosures.

David M
Tue, 08/28/2018 - 6:19pm

I completely agree with you. If you read any advice on how much house you can afford it says 3x yearly salary max.

Single parent
Wed, 08/29/2018 - 2:50pm

Actually the article said " within the price range of a WORKING COUPLE making around $30,000 a year. I took this to mean both working, equaling $60k a year... Which means of coarse without room mating with another single person or parent, most still can't afford it.

John Q. Public
Wed, 08/29/2018 - 7:45pm

If that's what they meant, that's what they should have said. But that's not what they meant--check the Zillow link they gave. It advises that you can afford roughly 4X your annual income for the purchase price of a house.

Now, in our case, we used 1.5X. Ad a result, we were able to save enough to afford the tuition bills for our kids' college, and one of those lake houses. The real estate industry doesn't account for a reasonable lifestyle when they tell you to commit way too much to housing. They don't care that food, gasoline, insurance, clothes, utilities, etc. cost the same no matter one's income.

What would really help solve Northern Michigan's housing problem is a manufactured home condo park, where people could buy sites for probably $60-80,000. I'll bet the filthy rich who inhabit Emmet County would never approve of that, though.

Dennis Hoshield
Tue, 01/08/2019 - 4:40pm

More people would need to get rid of their 'not in my neighborhood's attitude! I'd I had the $$.. I would attempt to start another park in a heartbeat! Maybe a community sponsored park? A park condo... Where trailer owners could OWN their property... Would help them be able to get a more normal mortgage on a trailer, in the first place. The 'lease to own' option, is a bit misleading.

Single Parent
Wed, 08/29/2018 - 2:57pm

Not to mention.... The fact that $30, 000 a year means $14.42/hr....... So When your paying $9.00- $11.50 an hour for the service industry, can you really expect to get and keep employees?

Mesmerizing Borealis
Tue, 08/28/2018 - 6:03pm

Raise the wages. If a business owner can't afford to raise the wages, then the business plan was flawed. What's the mystery, here? It's not that a business owner "should" be doing better. The business owner should "not" be doing well because the business owner went to a place where there wasn't sufficient labor. This is like planting a crop without sufficient irrigation. Also, if somebody built a dream home, and didn't understand that there would be limited services, then they made a mistake. The way to correct the mistake is to pay top dollar to bring supplies and services in from elsewhere. Paradise is pricey.

Dennis Hoshield
Tue, 01/08/2019 - 4:52pm

This is a problem across the country. We keep making bigger and bigger McMansions, whenany folks want... Need... To go the other way, and downsize, or start out with affordable homes.... Not rentals. Nothing wrong with rentals... But most want to own something. Simply raising wages won't help. Social Security living retirees aren't going to get a pay raise. Smaller homes are needed. The allowance / acceptance of Tiny Homes, or at least smaller homes, is needed. Zoning rules need to be changed to allow it, and neighbors need to allow it.

Smarter folks than I have been kicking around ideas for a long time, but few are getting anything done. It's frustrating to those of us that want to make a change, but don't have the $$ to help.

I would like to do something like this:
Except with larger homes. This group is aimee more at the homeless... Which is great... But the 'working poor' make enough to contribute, where larger homes would be good. Pocket communities of starter homes... Yes.. $50.... 60... 80K. 300-800 sq ft.... Not 2,000sq, with full basement, 2 car garage, and a landscaped yard. Live and sustain first... Save and work your way into the next step.

All IMHO, of course.

Dennis Hoshield
Tue, 01/08/2019 - 5:33pm

This is a problem across the country. We keep making bigger and bigger McMansions, whenany folks want... Need... To go the other way, and downsize, or start out with affordable homes.... Not rentals. Nothing wrong with rentals... But most want to own something. Simply raising wages won't help. Social Security living retirees aren't going to get a pay raise. Smaller homes are needed. The allowance / acceptance of Tiny Homes, or at least smaller homes, is needed. Zoning rules need to be changed to allow it, and neighbors need to allow it.

Smarter folks than I have been kicking around ideas for a long time, but few are getting anything done. It's frustrating to those of us that want to make a change, but don't have the $$ to help.

I would like to do something like this:
Except with larger homes. This group is aimee more at the homeless... Which is great... But the 'working poor' make enough to contribute, where larger homes would be good. Pocket communities of starter homes... Yes.. $50.... 60... 80K. 300-800 sq ft.... Not 2,000sq, with full basement, 2 car garage, and a landscaped yard. Live and sustain first... Save and work your way into the next step.

All IMHO, of course.

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 6:20pm

How about a large area for mobile home parks where you can have close to 3/4 acres to live on. Mobile homes are now very nice and affordable. Having a few parks around the area would be a boon for employees. Don't want to live in one, buy one and rent it out. We need these and affordable apartments. Low income workers can't buy homes or condos. I see so many subdivisions around that are close to empty. Stop making these expensive subdivisions and make parks or apartments instead.

John Q. Public
Wed, 08/29/2018 - 7:49pm

Didn't see your comment before I posted mine. You're on the right track, Tamika. Too many wealthy "decision makers" can't imagine that just because they wouldn't do something doesn't detract from the fact that a hundred other people would.

Sun, 09/02/2018 - 10:15pm

I used to be a mobile home park the locals called Radio City. Some of the locals called me home..... that said there IS affordable (income based, subsidized) housing in the area to rent but there is often a long waiting list. Further, I wonder if some of these business owners would be willing to hire disabled workers? Most that I have talked to want to be able to work or contribute in as far as they are able!

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 12:30am

Perhaps a small investment in mass transit to bring people already living in lower cost areas such as Cheboygan, Onaway, Rogers City and surrounding areas, might produce needed workers. Using Onaway as a hub, the distance to metro Petoskey is only 40 miles, certainly not an unreasonable distance.
Besides providing transportation for workers, consumers from outlying areas could benefit from better transportation for shopping trips to Petoskey or surrounding areas.

been there, don...
Wed, 08/29/2018 - 1:39am

This happens to every tourist town, especially when Airbnb starts sucking up all the housing. Ban Airbnb, extra taxes on second homes, permit fees on large homes, and use the money to subsidize building low end apartments. You will do this sooner or later, do you want to do it the hard way, or the easy way? Learn from other cities.

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 7:49am

My Experience is that working with these touristy towns is that in general their zoning planning and building departments is a nightmare. They especially fight off any proposal for apartments and make building down market homes an impossibility. But in this article this problem is never given even the smallest thought and possibility of a reason for the shortage. Another example of the pro-government bias that dominates Bridge and Center for Michigan.

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 8:52am

I used to work in Petoskey and lived there for 15 years over a decade ago. This has been a problem there for years, and no real solution in sight. A favorite slogan among the locals was "a view of the bay is half your pay" and that was pretty accurate for most of us. I moved back to the Detroit area over a decade ago because not only was housing expensive, but the cost of living in general was too. They rely on tourism to support many of the local businesses but unless they find a solution, they will lose that economic support.

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 9:30am

There is lots of greed in the area. I STILL hear employers using that old B.S. line; “A view of the bay is half the pay”! No, it’s not. It really doesn’t cost any more to build or maintain a business in these areas than it does down state. Employers use the adage to pay less, and they get what they pay for. For potential employees, then, the problem becomes bigger. A retiree interested in working part time, knows going into the job they will be treated like a slave. After all, they’re short staffed, so you have to stay longer and work twice as hard as you would elsewhere... all for $1.00 more per hour! Ooooooooh. That’s about $40 a WEEK, before taxes. “Maybe I’ll go to a movie... BY MYSELF”!

John Q. Public
Wed, 08/29/2018 - 7:52pm

Love the 'Trading Places' reference! Well played.

Sam Gilley
Wed, 08/29/2018 - 10:15am

Funny, not one mention of raising wages as a solution...

I hope they all go bankrupt!

Rick Haglund
Wed, 08/29/2018 - 10:30am

I wonder if some of the worker shortage problem in northern Michigan is because of the state's urbanizing and rapidly aging population. Young people are gravitating to cities and large metros. And in many northern Michigan counties, 20 percent or more of the population is 65 years and older. The working-age population in these places is shrinking dramatically.

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 12:09pm

This may seem very radical but here goes. 50 years ago when I was in college I approached people who were older and living alone. I said I would help with chores painting lawn care snow shoveling etc in exchange for a room in their home. I gave them written references I had and I always had housing. I helped cook, clean paint, etc. Ask someone from you church to help you secure a place to live while you work or go to college. Is this perfect no just a thought. R.L. Comments please

George Moroz
Wed, 08/29/2018 - 2:19pm

(A potential creative solution to his problem from the Schumacher Center for a New Economics)

It takes an island, or a borough, or a County, or a shire to gather and hold land for community benefit.

In an economy that is both just and sustainable, land would not be treated as a commodity that is bought and sold on the market to the highest bidder. Private control of limited natural resources inevitably leads to wide discrepancies in wealth because owners benefit unfairly from the need of all for access to land.
Nor is government the appropriate owner of land and arbitrator of access. Clumsy, centralized, bureaucratic— the process would be mired in paperwork.
Instead we recommend a series of regional, nonprofit, democratically-structured, citizen-based organizations that hold land and grant access through long term leases. Community land trusts were imagined by founder Robert Swann as a new land tenure system which could achieve a bold redistribution of land from private ownership to the commons.

Robert Swann with members of New Communities, Inc. at planning meeting circa 1970.

Lessees own homes, barns, roads, wells, perennials, and other improvements on the land and can sell or transfer these assets at replacement cost should they move, but the land itself continues in trust. Lease income is pooled to fund broader community purposes such as purchasing more land so more people can build homes and develop businesses.

The Democracy Collaborative recently released a carefully researched publication called Community Control of Land and Housing. Authors Jarrid Green and Thomas Hanna make the case for expanding the capacity and number of community land trusts in order to address the social and ecological consequences of land speculation.

“. . . There is an emerging opportunity to develop strategies related to land and housing that can help create inclusive, participatory, and sustainable economies built on locally-rooted, broad-based ownership of place-based assets.”

Community land trusts (CLTs) are most commonly identified as vehicles for affordable home ownership rather than as instruments of land reform because the need for affordable housing is urgent, and tax-exempt status is sought for that limited purpose at start up. Bob Swann would quip that it is not just the poor who shouldn’t speculate on land—no one should. But the exclusive purpose for affordable housing creates an impression that those with higher incomes would not be welcome to voluntarily place their own land in the CLT and lease it back.
Indian Line Farrn, the first Community Supported (CSA) Agriculture farm in North America, is one of three properties owned by the Berkshire Community Land Trust. Photo by Jason Houston.

The Berkshire Community Land Trust sought and received 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for multiple purpose—education, affordable housing, farming, economic diversity, open space for recreation, and enhancement of the community. Its sister organization, the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires, recently received 501(c)(2) title-holding status for BCLT’s 501(c)(3). BCLT accepts donations of land for multiple purposes and develops a land-use plan to meet ecological characteristics of the site as well as the social needs of the community. It then turns the land over to the CLTSB to manage and lease. Working together, these two organizations have a mandate to go beyond just affordable housing and manage all kinds of productive land:
1. retail sites to secure the character of small towns and inner-city neighborhoods;
2. manufacturing sites so citizens can support new import-replacement businesses that create local products for local needs such as wool processing or furniture manufacturing;
3. workforce housing for the firefighters, nurses, and teachers who work in a community and have incomes above charitable levels but who are priced out of the housing market;
4. farmland and ranchland, which is leased with equity in buildings and other improvements to farmers who are thus not burdened with land debt.

These sites do not have to be strictly limited to income qualified lessees but rather to those best qualified to develop and operate the specified activities. By encouraging citizen and public donations of land or donations of funds to acquire sites, the CLT eliminates the high cost of land for a community supported business and thus gives them a head start towards success.

Of course, CLTs can also still directly serve the immediate need for affordable home ownership in disenfranchised communities. Island Housing Trust (IHT), a CLT on Martha’s Vineyard, is partnering with the local hospital to develop housing for staff. Many critical workers live off-island because of the high cost of housing and cannot reach their posts if weather delays the ferry. IHT is buying a former inn and renovating it to include multiple two-bedroom apartments. Through a master lease the hospital will take on all the units at market rates so IHT can repay its upfront investment. The hospital will then rent to individual employees at subsidized rates, securing a critical workforce.

The need for housing for workers is so well understood on Martha’s Vineyard that merchants are donating a percentage of monthly sales to IHT, thereby taxing themselves to build housing for community members. Annabelle and Simon Hunton, owners of Nabnocket Inn, were so touched by IHT’s depiction of island neighbors facing a crisis in locating stable housing that they donated 2% of all the Inn’s income in the month of April to IHT and are planning to do more. Other merchants are doing the same in a partnership program with Island Housing Trust.

Local control of land and housing ensures an inclusive, participatory, and sustainable economy built on locally-rooted, broad-based ownership of place-oriented assets essential to bringing about a just economic future.
Here's a link to a video that tells the Martha's Vinyeard Story:


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Wed, 08/29/2018 - 3:07pm

Several neighboring communities do offer affordable home prices but you won't get a trendy downtown loft or lakefront views. The housing market is still modestly priced in Boyne City, East Jordan, Ellsworth, Central Lake up and over to Pellston. However, much of the housing is rural and apartments and rentals are hard to come by, as is short-term affordable lodging for vacationers.

That said, Subway in Petoskey earlier this summer was advertising $13.00 to start with "summer bonus." That's more than most restaurants in tourist-town Holland are paying.

This may all be a systemic reflection of generations of under educated populations in Northern Michigan only qualifying for work in the service sector. More education = more income = ability to afford housing.

George Ranville
Wed, 08/29/2018 - 6:21pm

Why is new housing construction so expensive? What has driven up the cost so much? Building codes? Lack of modular construction methods? Excessive government regulations? Who writes the state building codes anyway? Are Michigan building codes and regulations excessive - say compared to Wisconsin? It seems like after all these years the cost of building a duplex or apartment complex would be way way down. But that's not the case. Why not?

Sun, 09/30/2018 - 10:31am

State building codes? Aren't building codes adopted and enforced at the local level? Why the focus on "regulations" and "code?" What about materials and labor? As a matter of fact, the article points out that there's a labor shortage and contractors can't build housing fast enough due to it.

Eileen J
Wed, 08/29/2018 - 11:45pm

$120k homes for sale are a small part of the problem. (The math as stated doesn't work.) Affordable rental homes would be in higher demand.

Clarence White
Thu, 08/30/2018 - 11:10pm

It's all about wages. That and everybody is buying on line instead of going to a brick & mortar. Independent restaurants can't afford the wages necessary and chains never will. So get used to driving a long distance and get used to the isolation it has created.

old brewer
Fri, 08/31/2018 - 8:22am

well when you barely pay above minimum wage for a highly skilled job what do you expect? man uo and pay competitive industry wages and some type of insurance for full time staff who are building your dream. if you need to know what a competitive wage is you can consult the american brewers association. good luck beards.

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 9:25am

wait staff is not highly skilled. its not easy but if you can be trained in a shift or two its not highly skilled

Fri, 08/31/2018 - 9:17am

The answer is simple employers and I was one for 38 years need to pay their employees a living wage. If you can't do that you don't have a viable business plan. Subsidized housing in the end is the taxpayers subsidizing employers

Pay More
Sun, 09/02/2018 - 8:49am

Easy answer. Pay workers more. These business owners want to pay very little to workers. It’s ridiculous. They complain that they cannot take advantage of even more workers. If they can’t put together a proper business plan to pay employees a living wage they should get what they derseve and go under.

A Low Income Re...
Sat, 09/08/2018 - 9:14pm

While for many raising wages would help, the reality is that no matter where you live there are people who don't fit into those kinds of solutions. I am an adult in my 30's who would love to have the simple solution of increased wages to help afford my housing but that is impossible for me. Due to serious health problems that started as a kid I am pretty much forced to be on disability so I have health insurance that covers all of my medical expenses. While I would love to be able to work full time and get benefits through my employer that isn't possible due to my ongoing health problems. Yet I still work as much as I can. While I am lucky to be able to work at least part time the rules you have to follow in order to get Disability benefits severely limits your financial situation. There is a maximum $$ amount I am allowed to make per month and with that maximum amount plus the monthly $$ I get from Social Security for disability my income still falls below the poverty level. I have struggled to find and keep affordable housing in the area for almost 10 yrs now. I live in a single bedroom apt in Alanson and I am in "income based" housing but still struggling with the cost. They calculate that you can pay at minimum 30% of your total gross income for just your basic rent (not including utilities or other costs). Increased wages would not be the answer for me since I cannot earn more $$ monthly because I would lose my health insurance. In fact last year Social Security made a mistake in thinking I had earned too much money in only one month because there happened to be 3 pay periods that month and that caused my benefits to be stopped and took 3 months to fix, during that time I had no health insurance. Before I knew I would have to be on disability I went to college and picked a career that is higher paying than many other jobs...unfortunately that doesn't help me. In fact making more $$/hour means I can only work less. I actually had someone at the Social Security office tell me that "If I wanted to work more hours each month I should have picked a lower paying job". I couldn't believe someone would say that. I would love to be healthy enough to work full time and not have to be on disability but unfortunately that just isn't possible. No matter where you live there will always be a need for lower income housing because the cold hard fact is that there will always be people who can't just get higher paying jobs and have more income. And there will always be jobs that pay much less than others. You can't expect a fast food restaurant to pay wages as good as other businesses or careers (such as working at McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital). That would drastically increase the cost of the food and people wouldn't buy it. There needs to be affordable housing for every income bracket. I don't know what the solution is and unfortunately I don't think it will improve anytime soon. But hopefully making more people aware of it can help.

Yi-Li Wu
Mon, 12/10/2018 - 9:43am

Meanwhile, the lame duck legislature is gleefully gutting all attempts to improve worker pay and benefits...raising worker wages is by no means a panacea, and the problem in Petoskey is multi-factorial and multi-faceted...but how ironic to see this report at a time when it has become crystal clear that our legislators are fixated on promoting a certain ideology (disenfranchise voters, disempower workers, eliminate regulations, worship the “free market”) rather than making a good faith effort to address the systemic challenges that afflict our state. If you think things in Petoskey are bad now, just wait until the Line 5 chickens come home to roost...

Sun, 12/30/2018 - 1:37pm

I am sure someone has thought of this, but what about dormitory housing for Summer help? I'm pretty sure that's the way Mackinac Island handles their worker needs. That might work for the short term, but unless we have a cataclysmic reshaping of the social order, you guys are screwed. A family cannot purchase a home or even rent a home on minimum wages I guess you will have to troll the woods for full timers.

Wed, 03/13/2019 - 10:16am

A $120,000 home is in the price range of a couple making $30,000/yr?? On what planet?

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 6:07pm

I live in Marquette and I see the same thing. New building is mostly condos, and expensive apartments luring people to our latest destination “to see and enjoy the Wonderful Marquette area and UP” status.
My home had doubled in value in the 20y I have lived here, but wages barely an increase of 25-28%. It will be great when I sell my home however, I won’t be able to afford renting in my own town. Thank goodness we have good bus service to help with the commuting expenses when I am forced to move out to the surrounding towns.

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 6:07pm

I live in Marquette and I see the same thing. New building is mostly condos, and expensive apartments luring people to our latest destination “to see and enjoy the Wonderful Marquette area and UP” status.
My home had doubled in value in the 20y I have lived here, but wages barely an increase of 25-28%. It will be great when I sell my home however, I won’t be able to afford renting in my own town. Thank goodness we have good bus service to help with the commuting expenses when I am forced to move out to the surrounding towns.