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More remote workers leaving cities and embracing U.P. lifestyle

UPPER PENINSULA, MI (February 11, 2021) Across the Upper Peninsula, housing is in high demand as professionals looking for a better lifestyle snatch up vacation homes and relocate altogether. With the new ability to work from home, more couples and families are looking beyond their local labor markets. The friendly culture and year-round access to abundant outdoor activities make the U.P. irresistible to workers who can choose where they want to live and work.

Telework has freed many people from considering proximity to the workplace as a driving factor in relocation. No longer confined to large cities where many jobs are based, they are exploring new communities across the U.P., from Sault Ste. Marie to Ironwood. Smaller cities like Houghton, Marquette and Iron Mountain are attracting young professionals seeking work-life balance along with access to amenities like busy downtown centers, restaurants and entertainment.

A study released by freelancing platform Upwork has found that as many as 14 to 23 million Americans aged 18 and up intend to relocate to a different city or region. Major cities are expected to see the largest exodus, with most remote workers seeking less expensive housing farther away from the cities where they currently work. The Upper Peninsula offers a work-live nirvana. Its panoramic views, safe neighborhoods and affordable housing make the region a top option for those looking for a lifestyle upgrade.

Kristine Jukuri Weidner of Century 21 North Country Agency in Houghton has seen firsthand what is attracting people to the area. She says, “I’ve enjoyed meeting people who discovered the area online and were attracted to the rural and outdoor aspects of our communities. One client had never visited before but was looking for property in the Keweenaw. When I asked what sparked their interest, they told me they were initially looking near Lake Michigan. The pandemic made them realize they wanted to be even further north which ultimately led them to find property on Lake Superior.” Other trends she’s seen that have brought people to the area include family ties, MTU, NMU, LSSU and FU alumni, people speeding up their retirement or those working from home and looking to relocate.

InvestUP CEO Marty Fittante understands why workers are looking toward the U.P. “The Upper Peninsula is an incredible choice for remote workers. The pace, lower cost of living and no commute appeals to people looking to reduce the stress of urban living. We also have a strong business-friendly climate here. If you’re an entrepreneur, there’s no better place to live and work.”

With housing that ranges from modest and luxury lakeside cottages to gated communities, condos and single-family homes, couples, families and singles have an array of options. Rural properties offer peace and privacy, while small-town neighborhoods are brimming with friendly neighbors and safe downtown areas. With outstanding K-12 schools, four universities and four community colleges, U.P. students receive a strong educational foundation.

The Upper Peninsula is perhaps best known for its active year-round outdoor culture. With a combined 4,500 miles of groomed snowmobile and cross-country ski trails, eight downhill skiing slopes and lots of snow, it’s a winter-lover’s paradise. During the summer, 200+ waterfalls and more than 1,700 miles of Great Lakes shoreline surrounded by millions and millions of acres of pristine forest beckon hikers, cyclists, boaters and sunbathers.

Whether the intention to relocate translates to actual moves has yet to be seen. But anecdotal evidence points to a significant uptick in real estate activity in the U.P. Weidner explains, “The real estate market in our four-county area has been competitive for the last three years, especially in 2020. Residential and land sales both increased by 23% and 22% respectively.” Although large cities are unlikely to feel the impact of migration, even a modest number of new residents could have an outsize impact on the region. Despite the challenges and tragedies of the past year, new neighbors and an economic boost would be a welcome silver lining for the people and companies of the U.P.

As a part of our commitment to the Upper Peninsula, we collaborate with partners to share some of the most compelling stories about business and job growth across the region. Our goal through these stories is to get at the heart of what makes the U.P. unique — and to ensure these stories travel beyond our peninsula and broadly illustrate why the UP is the place to live and work.

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