According to an email from the Michigan governor’s office on Friday, Governor Rick Snyder had yet to receive the proposal from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) regarding the use of the former Marquette County Airport in Negaunee Township off U.S. 41, as reported by the Mining Journal.
Plans were already being developed by the Baraga-based tribe to expand its Chocolay Township Ojibwa Casino II, however, the tribe wanted to make a final attempt, in what has been a 15-year effort, to relocate the casino to a larger, more visible and centralized property on the 80-acres that was once home to the airport. Press secretary for Governor Snyder, Anna Heaton, said, “At this point, we aren’t aware of a pending application to have the airport parcel taken into trust, but if they decide to pursue that project, the governor will absolutely be willing to have discussions on it.”
In a press release on Monday, April 18, KBIC said it was asking Governor Snyder to reconsider his prior rejection of the tribe’s proposal and that his response be received by Thursday. The local media were not able to reach KBIC representatives by press time Friday night.
The U.S. Department of the Interior approved the relocation in late 2011, but KBIC’s proposal was rejected by Governor Snyder in June 2013. Had the proposal been approved, the Interior Department would have been able to acquire the land in trust for the tribe’s gaming purposes. At the time, Governor Snyder indicated he would be receptive to the idea if it were part of a bigger deal between the state and KBIC, one that would benefit local communities, the state, as well as the tribe. In addition, any future agreement would include a requirement, which was not favored by the tribe, that taxes be levied by tribal businesses on every transaction with non-Native Americans.
Based on in-depth economic studies, KBIC wants to develop a major tourism entertainment destination where gaming would only be a part of the overall economic plan, that according to the tribe, would benefit the region. The plans for the new facility have been modified to reflect that and now include a branded hotel and waterpark resort, as well as many other amenities and features. Back in 1999, KBIC purchased more than 50 acres for 1.4 million, and its sole intent for the property was to relocate the Chocolay Township casino there.
KBIC said the move would create jobs for members of the surrounding community who are not affiliated with the tribe, revenue generated for the local communities and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation would increase. The tribe anticipates that during development, at least 230 construction jobs would be created. Once completed, the facility would provide 200 new jobs, which would mean a total of 350 full-time positions, with another 100 part-time possible during the summer tourism season.