The only thing that never changes is that things keep changing.
That proverb is what got MQTSocialScene from an idea to a plan to a website.
Another young entrepreneur said last April that the people of the MQT area didn't need to worry about national trends, social media, politics or anything else because "MQT is MQT and it will never change."
Change always happens, it just matters if it is a good change to love or a bad change to fix. Even things that work well sometimes have to be updated, like the oil in your car.
Here is a list of some of the good and the bad that will change in MQT over the next calendar year. --Managing Editor Brice Burge
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MQT's MEXICAN RENAISSANCE
Many new Mexican restaurants have come back to the MQT area, strengthening one of the city's weakest culinary styles.
Sol Azteca, Ron's Taco Shop and Dia De Los Tacos have all opened in the last year, with other strong local options increasing their menus.
Each of the three new Mexican restaurants brought something new to the area. Dia De Los Tacos was the first food truck of its kind in the MQT area. Ron's Taco Shop has the most available hours of any locally-owned restaurant. Sol Azteca brought Mexican food to downtown MQT by taking over the old Waterfront above L'Attitudes.
For a city already respected for its art and music scene, the culinary culture is improving in MQT.
Through surveys, focus groups and public sessions, the citizens of MQT can help shape major changes to the area. Two big initiatives -- the Marquette Arts and Culture Master Plan and the Ore Dock BotEco Center -- are actively looking for people to add to their projects.
Meetings were held yesterday and earlier this morning on the Marquette Arts and Culture Master Plan, the first such plan by the city in over 20 years. Participants were asked to share what their cultural experiences were and what the city did to help or hurt those experiences, from funding and publicity to road closure and tax spending.
A committee has been formed to help draw up the plan, co-chaired by Walt Lindela and Michelle Butler. The committee is working with MQT's community services. A survey will be out shortly for those that did not attend the meeting, but those willing to offer input now can contact Arts and Culture manager Tiina Harris at email@example.com.
The Ore Dock BotEco Center will have their meetings on Wednesday, February 5, at the Ore Dock Brewing Company and Thursday, February 6, at the Shiras Room in the Peter White Library. At the meetings, visuals and more information about turning one of MQT's most recognizable landmarks into a botanical garden and ecological education center will be provided.
The center has recently received non-profit status according to BotEco Center Board President Gisele Duehring, a major step in turning the Ore Dock into a more usable space. Previous attempts at shopping districts and apartments have not been successful.
Public input was important in last year's discussion of the Third Street Sustainable Corridor Plan. The majority of their planning last year, but input is still available for turning what is known as "the Village" into a more walkable district.
The state-funded economic zone, also nicknamed "smartzone", is a program that helps promote business and economic growth in targeted areas through extra-funding, tax breaks and more. The zone split between the neighboring counties was the sixth in the state and was a bi-partisan project between John Kivela (D-Marquette) and Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba).
The zones have had success downstate, as well as nearby Houghton. Michigan Tech University's smart zone from a previous state economic action has attracted six Fortune 500 businesses and supported dozens of start-ups in the ten years that it has been open, according to Michigan Tech. The economic zone has also helped NMU through collaborative projects.
Michigan Tech's zone also focused on the Copper Country to the North of Houghton, similar to the large zone created in Marquette and Delta Counties. Gladstone, Escanaba, KI-Sawyer and more could be targeted in this zone in addition to the MQT area. Collaboration between these city and county governments are key to the success of the business incubators as well as creating and keeping jobs in the area.
The controversial law, also known as Obamacare or the Health Care Bill, is full of debate in Washington, but one specific aspect looks to hurt MQT's tourism and service industries. The hourly quotas are proving a challenge for managers and a concern for part-time workers in the area.
Younger people will not be able to stockpile hours in the summer during higher travel seasons, outdoor recreations while they are free from education schedules.
Expect more people to have to get a second or third job, while business owners and managers will have issues with scheduling and moonlighting policies. There are less available hours for part-time workers, with some people receiving more hours to reach full time to receive the healthcare promised in the Affordable Healthcare Act.
With stricter scheduling and people spread out further with work responsibilities, MQT's special events and tourism could suffer. Whether a small fundraiser, advisory committee or a large fest at Lower Harbor, these events need volunteers to run. A lot of these volunteers come from younger people in the part-time job force. Filling these spots and jobs this first summer with the Affordable Healthcare Act in effect will be a lesson in patience and dedication, not just for the area, but for our fellow MQT citizens.
Running is a wide topic, but covers so much for the MQT area.
As a runner-friendly city, MQT has miles of paved and nature trails as well as stores knowledgeable about running trends. Currently, runners are trying to bring back old races like the Fourth of July Mile to join other contests throughout the year. The Marquette Marathon will reportedly have a new course as well.
Running is an individualistic sport and activity, but can be done as groups. That versatility pairs up well with MQT's other popular sports like cross country skiing, cycling and disc sports like Frisbee golf. It promotes a healthy, active community for the citizens of MQT.
Local teams also are doing well in running, as the MQT Redmen and Redettes will defend their UP Cross Country championships next fall, while NMU will look to build off their best season under Head Coach Jenny Ryan.
Also fun runs look to make an impact both recreational-wise and as fundraisers. The Run or Dye series coming to MQT with other fun runs being investigated as fundraisers for groups in the MQT area.
Currently, there are 22 listed vacant slots on multiple city boards, ranging from the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, Arts and Culture Advisory Committee and Sister City Advisory Board.
MQT's community boards and committees help the city run efficiently, providing infrastructure and support for the city. Like all community service opportunities, there are mandatory responsibilities, but MQT is worth it. Anyone is a good candidate as young professionals can establish themselves in the community, new residents of MQT can find a way to connect to the city or people that have been in MQT for years can repay the city for their prosperity.
The negative part about MQT city boards and committees are the qualifications restricting eligibility. Since these are boards for the city of MQT, applicants must live in "MQT proper", which excludes Trowbridge, Harvey, Crossroads and other township groups included in the greater MQT area.
People that wish to apply can fill out the citizen profile application found here.
The MQT BLP rate increase was approved by the MQT City Commission last October after a request from the publicly-elected Board of Light and Power. The increase will be minimal for regular homeowners, with an estimated $13 increase, according to stats provided in an editorial by the Mining Journal. Those stats were taken from previous Mining Journal articles.
Increases are the first in roughly 30 years, according to Upper Peninsula Source and are one of the many reasons that increases are so drastic. In comparison, BLP rates are still cheaper after the increase than other regional power companies, like UPPCO or Alger/Delta.
The big challenge will be for businesses and non-profit groups. In the same editorial by the Mining Journal, MQT Area Public Schools (MAPS) will have an extra $113,000 to pay, while NMU will have an additional $650,000 on their bill. These are massive increases that will play major havoc in each group's budgets the next year.
With more donations and emergency funds from these groups being funneled into such a massive increase, businesses and non-profits are not as prepared for the other changes expected to hit MQT. The BLP has created an unnecessary financial burden and risk for these groups and subsequently the city.
Brice Burge is the Managing Editor of MQT Social Scene. He can be reached at briceMQT@gmail.com.