Murch: Like a snowball rolling down the hill

I had a brief conversation Friday with a young woman, who is no longer in high school though I don’t know if she’s in college, who told me she is moving because her dad got a job in Traverse City (I don’t know if it was a new job or transfer) and the family is moving in a couple of weeks. As an individual case it’s insignificant, though at the very least it’s two people who are leaving Alpena and likely a few more.

Regardless of whether it was a transfer or he took a new job, we can’t automatically assume his current position will be filled by someone. If it’s not, then it’s likely an example of how our job pool and general population have dwindled the last few years – slowly. We don’t really notice when it’s one or two here and there until we turn around and those one or two have turned into 100.

When that happens we do the V-8 slap to the forehead and say “What happened?” The 2010 census didn’t really reveal anything shocking when those numbers were released, but they still were a bit startling because it’s there is black and white as opposed to just seeing changes. We see unemployment numbers all the time so we’ve almost become immune to them.

But there could be hope on the way if rumors can be believed and possibilities become realities. Rumors are one thing, and could be anything from someone letting the cat out of the bag to just a pipe dream. You can’t believe rumors.

If we look at the other side of the coin – the possibilities – then we have room for cautious optimism. The county has been working on a Center of Excellence designation for quite some time, and the county is trying to bring in the drone project which would be easier to get if the Excellence designation is achieved.

In March Alpena Public Schools board approved a land sale option of property to Meijer Inc. While at its core it doesn’t mean much because it’s just an option, it was the first real public sign the company is looking at the Alpena market. In February the company announced it is opening two stores in Michigan this year as well as six others in the Great Lakes region. In the case of the stores it is opening, it said they each would employ about 250 full-time or part-time jobs. Logically it would seem Alpena probably wouldn’t open until 2015 since nothing has been finalized.

Still, it too is a possibility. There are other things happening behind the scenes that may happen as well, but you can’t discuss the abstract and hoped-for because they might not never come to fruition.

But back to the known possibilities, if one or the other happens – but not both – then it’s not the best-case scenario though it is good news. Jobs would be coming and money would be pumped into the local economy. If both things happened, then real momentum will follow.

Economic growth and prosperity are a little like a snowball rolling down hill. They both get bigger and move faster – you just can’t get stopped by hitting a rock or tree on the way down.

There are skeptics who will say we’ve heard all of this before. And guess what, if nothing happens this time you will hear it all again (and even if they both happen we’ll hear about more possibilities). Why? Because there are people working to make things better, and that will never stop.

As with everything, you have to hope for the best and plan for the worst because life isn’t all puppies and kittens. You can’t get caught up in the what-ifs but still be behind the efforts to make them happen. There will be growth, we just don’t know what and we don’t know when.

Eventually something will break and we’ll have that snowball rolling down the hill. I know this because I know many of the people working on these possibilities and I trust them, some are even my friends and I know they won’t stop working.

We’ll just have to wait to see whether we have a snowball or an avalanche.

Steve Murch can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5686. Follow Steve on Twitter at sm_alpenanews. Read his blog, Pardon, Me But … at