MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. – Mackinac Island city officials today announced they would need at least another month to decide whether to grant an exclusive ferry franchise to just one company, a delay that threatens at least one ferry company and could produce broader economic ripples.
The announcement came during a packed public hearing where ferry operators presented their proposals for service. City officials claim they need the extra time to review additional financial information from the companies.
Chris Shepler, vice president of Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry, was deeply disappointed at the council’s failure to act on Shepler’s request to renew its nonexclusive ferry franchise.
He said he remains confident the council will ultimately reach a fair decision, but he said the uncertainty is detrimental to his family’s 65-year-old business.
“I need to know if we’re operating next year at some point soon,” Shepler said. “I have to make a decision on whether to invest in $100,000 worth of billboards or take them down. We are not doing any marketing or advertising for the 2011 season.
“There’s a lot at stake, and not just for Shepler’s,” Shepler said. “It’s the economy of the island, the Straits region – the communities of Mackinaw City and St. Ignace – and ultimately Michigan’s tourism industry. This is way bigger than Shepler’s.”
Contact: Charlie Cain, The Rossman Group, 517- 898-4183 (c), 517- 487-9320 (o)