2012-08-02 / Front Page

Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital makes progress

USDA official tours site, assesses project


USDA Rural Development State Director James J. Turner, far left, is shown alongside Business Program Administrator John Padalino on a tour of the furture site of SMH. The tour was led by SMH board member Bob Root, shown at far right. 
Pioneer Tribune photo USDA Rural Development State Director James J. Turner, far left, is shown alongside Business Program Administrator John Padalino on a tour of the furture site of SMH. The tour was led by SMH board member Bob Root, shown at far right. Pioneer Tribune photo MANISTIQUE – The future site of Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital received a special visitor Thursday – USDA Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner. Coming in at just over $24 million, the new facility received a large portion of its funding – $19 million – from a USDA Rural Development loan.

Turner, a 2009 appointee of President Barack Obama, visited SMH as part of a multi-site visit across Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. The purpose of his tour, he said, was to see, firsthand, the USDA’s impact on rural communities.

“We have, in the last three years, invested $4.2 billion in the state of Michigan,” Turner explained. “As state director, I think it is incumbent upon me to travel around the state, see what it is we’re doing. See the impact on the community, understand that; make sure the community understands that, so they can get the full depth and scope of what’s taking place here.”

According to Turner, the USDA chooses to invest in smaller, rural communities in order to spur development. SMH, he added, is a prime example of how one loan can help an entire community grow.

“Our goal at Rural Development is to help rural communities become thriving, prosperous, and repopulating places. Places where families will want to come to, and maybe start a business and raise a family,” he said. “There are several key components to doing that.

They are: a good educational system, a good safety system, and a good health system. And this is the health component of this – this is going to make it a stronger community.”

Turner also pointed out that, as part of the Obama administration, the USDA is also looking to create jobs – a goal accomplished at the SMH site.

“I was talking to the contractor while we were walking through here; this is not only the 60 jobs on site … but all that steel that’s framing inside the building is manufactured in Traverse City,” he said. “That’s true about all these projects that we have going around the state – there are jobs on site, but someone made those bricks, someone’s making the roofing components, someone is making the components that will hold the wiring, someone’s making the wiring – all of this is a rippling job effect that’s helping the economy grow stronger.”

In addition to the community development and job creation, Turner noted that the new hospital make impact individual insurance rates, as more people will now have critical access health care available to them.

As he toured the site, Turner mentioned the USDA Rural Development’s other investments in the Manistique community.

“We have a lot of money invested in this community,” he explained. “We’ve got money invested in your water system, we’ve got money invested in your sewer system, we provided a business industry loan guarantee for Jack’s (Fresh) Market, and we provided a business industry loan guarantee for your paper mill.

So it’s important to us that this town remain strong and viable,” he added.

If successful, both the paper mill and SMH will have a positive impact on the community, he said.

“These two things are going to be linchpins to the success of this community,” Turner explained.

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