IRONWOOD - Every Northwoods community faces a similar economic issue: keeping young people around.
But it seems that Ironwood is seeing some success with the challenge.
"I came here for the snow. That's the long and the short of it," said Jonathon Rulseh, who moved to Ironwood when he was 28.
With hundreds of miles of trails for hiking, skiing, four-wheeling, and snowmobiling, the Ironwood area attracts a lot of outdoor enthusiasts year-round.
"Skiers started buying second homes so that they could spend more time here and then skiers like us actually relocating," said Ironwood resident Jackie Powers. "There is a trend, I think. I could name off probably a dozen ski friends who now live here."
It's outdoor recreation opportunities, including access to great cross country ski trails, that draws people to the Ironwood area, but it's features like the housing market and community that keep people here. And those people tend to be younger.
Community Resource Development Educator Will Andresen with the Iron County UW-Extension office works to make the county more appealing to young people.
"In the end without new young people coming in we're not going to be able to sustain our economy," said Andresen. "We're not going be able to support our schools. Our tax base is going to fall apart."
Many Northwoods cities struggle with this problem, but Andresen is trying a different approach.
"Historically, most of us focus on job creation, business development, workforce development, and I do all that," he said. "But the economy is changing. Now it's more about creating that kind of place where people want to live."
For Andresen, that project involves creating social networks that allow young people to connect with one another and building on what people already come here for.
"We're developing a regional trail that will connect all the communities in the Northwoods, northern Iron County and Gogebic County, and we have already $4 million invested in that," said Andresen.
The area's affordability also helps.
"We came up for the winter. Just spent the winter, got season passes at the local ski areas and then before the winter was over bought a house, because they're cheap," said Tom Bergman, who moved to the area when he was 29.
The housing situation is definitely a buyers' market.
"There's a lot of older houses, but they have character. You know, really nice character, and you can find those houses in the $40, $50, $60 thousand price range. And with the interest rates with the way they are now, it's cheaper than rent," said Remax Action North broker and owner Dean Lantta.
There's also a strong sense of community.
"I think that's also part of the thing that's kept me here is not only the ability to have a positive impact on a small community, 'cause that's kind of what I do for work, but also that the people are super open and friendly," said Bergman. "I mean, even from day one, people basically invite you into their home."
It's also a community that hopes younger generations will start calling home.
For more information on Andresen's work with the UW-Extension, click on the link below.
UW-Extension Next Generation