U.P. businesses try to meet wages and operation needs


MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) – Inflation continues to drive the cost of goods upward and independent businesses are adapting to find the balance between expenditures, payroll, and profit.

Vango’s in Marquette, for example, said it tries hard to balance fair pay with operation costs and maintain stable menu prices.

“We try and offer the most competitive wage that we can based on our cost of goods,” said Co-Owner Michele Butler. “We’re trying to maintain a healthy environment, hours, times we make people work, etc., etc.”

And as businesses like Vango’s enter their busy season, they face the added challenge of finding enough employees.

“We’re very fortunate that the staff that we have is here, and we almost have a full complement. But, we’re always looking for that extra body, as is everyone else,” Butler said

Meanwhile, working adults are crunching income versus a rising cost of living, a cost that, for many, wages are not keeping up with.

In a 2021 report from the Marquette Ad-Hoc Housing Committee, median household incomes may have risen 36% from 2017 to 2020. But, when adjusted for inflation, it actually decreased by 11%.

While it is unclear what the current average wage is for the Upper Peninsula, InvestUP CEO Marty Fittante said it is conducting its first comprehensive wage labor market study.

“We’ve just now gotten 11 solicitations back to an RFQ that we had submitted. We’re in the process of selecting a vendor for that, and you’ll see for the first time we’ll have that meaningful data available to us in the first part of next year,” Fittante said.

But for now, Fittante said employers should try getting creative to accommodate their workers’ needs. Lake Superior Community Partnership (LSCP), however, said aside from wages, affordable and available housing plays an important role in easing the stress for all parties.

“I think filling that housing gap and helping with the child care for people to kind of go back into the workforce to get that, it’s all one big circle. Once you solve one puzzle, it will help solve the rest of them,” said Brooke Quinn, an LSCP business development representative.

Overall, Vango’s hopes they and other businesses can work to ease the stress for not only working employees but those hoping to enjoy shops and restaurants in their area.

“Everybody wants that special treat and special night,” Butler said. “I hope that entrepreneurs and restaurants in the area are doing the best that they can to keep their prices level so that families can afford to come out. We pride ourselves in that.”

For now, while market trends point to continued high costs, workers and their employers are collaborating to find solutions.

Copyright 2022 WLUC. All rights reserved.

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