The story of the quarter was the victory of the Lakeshore Hotel Project. This project took a concerted effort from all Chamber staff, local business owners, and others over two months, and the number of business contacts will show a marked increase for this report. Because of this accomplishment, and other victories signaling investment and positive, incremental change for Manistee County, we have seen an increase in entrepreneurs contacting us with visions of starting their own business.  

Chamber staff has been working with them to find locations and overcome obstacles. There have been some clear themes to these obstacles that challenge conventional wisdom about our storefront vacancies. The reason why a storefront or commercial property is empty - blighted or not - is more complex than “there just aren’t any businesses here.” The Chamber developed a survey for building owners and had conversations about their reasons for not renting to a new business. The goal is to build an inventory of available space, with an overlay of what sectors are acceptable to building owners.  

Chamber/Downtown Development Authority victories that impact economic development also included starting up a social district for downtown, outdoor seating platforms, working several with food truck owners, and weighing in on the mobile food ordinance. All of this encourages more overall investment in our tourism infrastructure. 
Downtown Gateway Project
  • Chamber facilitated discussion, provided assistance to advance the project.  
  • Expected increases in staff time, contact, and progress. 
  • Little River Holdings and the City of Manistee worked during the quarter towards receiving state brownfield funding for environmental site remediation and preparation for construction. 

Lakeshore Hotel Project
  • Manistee Planning Commission meetings on April 1 and May 20. 
  • Project meetings, strategy coordination, business outreach efforts, and engagement.
  • Business sign-on letter (40 businesses representing over 1,950 local employees), media release with a developer video, and a Chamber Board resolution.  
  • Economic development work will continue. 
  • Demolition is being planned for the Winter time frame.

Thoroughbred Boat Company
  • Progress being made on the first vessel, delivery of the second hull.  
  • Business retention outreach and a July visit is planned.
Fricano’s Manistee River Restaurant
  • Demolition work and construction are underway.
  • Chamber facilitated a land agreement, DNR assent on land sale, and a transfer of development incentives to Fricano.
  • DDA approved a facade grant. 

River Water Housing Development
  • Developer is waiting on an announcement from Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) in June.

Council on Aging and Senior Living
  • Exploring opportunities at the Wagoner Center for senior housing. 

Water Works Building
  • Toured the structure to take stock of future opportunities with the building.

Ludington Tour Boat Company
  • The “Princess” relocated from Ludington to Manistee this spring after recruitment efforts.
  • Created buzz with newspaper articles, social media posts, and local discussions.  
  • Tour operations so far are a success, assistance continues with hiring needs and other needs.
  • For more information or to book tours go to

Ironworks Development
  • With a good vision, this property could address several economic development goals and bring some hip factor to the peninsula district.  
  • Multiple meetings were held with the owner to look for viable options. 

Filer Township Mixed-Use Development
  • Participated in two public charrettes on developing a project on township lands.

Northern Hotel
  • Potential Developer contact in April on available incentives.  
  • Developer terminated the project due to stated reasons: size, scope, and expense of the project, as well as the lack of incentives to make the project profitable.
  • Developer remains interested in investment in Manistee, and the Chamber will remain in contact. 

Food Truck Development
  • There has been interest in developing a food truck culture. 
  • Chamber met with entrepreneurs and made several referrals to develop plans.
  • Engagement goals include small business creation, improving the food scene, and making additional investments in tourism infrastructure.   
  • The City of Manistee passed a food truck ordinance that Chamber staff reviewed and commented upon. Food trucks allow for an aspiring restaurateur and entrepreneur to enter the profession with low capital start-up costs and build towards a potential investment in a brick-and-mortar location.   
Business Retention Visits - for several key recreation and agriculture/hospitality businesses took place in the quarter. Growth opportunities will require looking at potential grant assistance, and investment partners. 

Consumers Energy Grant
A grant was submitted for the Consumers Energy Prosperity Awards initiative requesting $220,000 for Riverwalk building facade grants and some community public art and murals.  Activating Riverwalk buildings and commercial space will play on Manistee’s strengths and assets, and offer up several opportunities for expansion.   

Downtown Commercial Space Survey
Time was spent researching building owners and connecting them to an internet survey.  Responses will show what is available for lease or purchase, challenges to utilization, desired outcomes, and other information.  The survey has been used already to direct entrepreneurs to building owners.  

Business View Magazine
A journal interview promoting the City of Manistee has turned into a solid piece on economic development.  Link for the article 
Lead Business Retention, Attraction, and Growth
Talent and Workforce Development
Growing Entrepreneurs and Necessary Career Skills
Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
Placemaking and Housing Needs
Building a Collaborative Environment and Effective Communications
James Barker, Munson Healthcare Manistee
Stacie Bytwork, Manistee Area Chamber
Jeff Dontz, Manistee County
Dennis McCarthy, Blarney Castle Oil & Propane
Jim Reithel, Martin Marietta, Inc.
Tom St. Dennis, Little River Holdings, LLC
Thad Taylor, City of Manistee
Scott Ward, West Shore Community College