Echo’s annual Progress Edition a bellwether on economic times

For 22 years the Ely Echo has put out an annual Progress Edition. This year there are 22 pages filled with stories, photos and advertisements. Plenty of reading and plenty of information on our business climate.
There’s plenty of hope and promise in those 22 pages. Entrepreneurs putting it all on the line with the hope their dreams will come true. New owners and new locations of area businesses. These are a snapshot in time of our business community.
When we look back in previous issues there are businesses that were profiled that are no longer here. Or never made it through the first year. Being a business owner in a small town is no easy task. You better be able to put in your blood, sweat and tears to make it work, not to mention opening your personal checkbook.
Each of the 22 Progress Editions have been unique to the time they were published. Some were filled with millions of dollars in public projects - that’s something you won’t see this year.
We’ve had a good run of big dollar projects but until the college housing and Highway 169 projects take off, it’s a bit quieter. That means those construction workers who help fill our hotels, bars and restaurants haven’t been spending their money in town. That’s an economic impact on its own.
Construction projects like the one starting at Vermilion Community College make a big difference in the bottom line of local businesses. Hardware stores, the lumber yards and the companies that sell fuel in town know when public dollars are being spent. Those business owners see it in their cash registers.
Truth be told, it’s been one heckuva a tough spring in the local business world. Winter seemed to come to an end and then linger without any major benefit. We had a majority of our top dollar earners, those who work at the taconite plants, getting by on unemployment checks instead of nice paychecks. Fewer dollars to spread around.
Summer is coming, that’s for sure. And we’re all happier when we can go to the lake after work and blow off some steam. When we have to go home and snowblow in April, not so good.
Maybe that’s why contentious issues seem to pop up in the later winter and early spring. By the time fishing opener rolls around, we won’t be concerned with gypsy moths. We’ll be too busy switching from gypsy jigs to our favorite walleye weapon.
Our thanks to all of the businesses who took the time to talk to us about their accomplishments and especially those who advertised in this year’s Progress Edition. Like everyone else who pays commercial taxes, we need income to keep our doors open as well.
We hope you enjoy the 2016 version of the Ely Echo Progress Edition, with 22 pages in the 22nd version. We’re proud of the work that went into it - we’ve already started a list for next year - let’s hope it’s even bigger and better in 2017.