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Leelanau County businesses have found an innovative solution to the region’s vexing affordable housing and workforce recruitment crisis. County government, chambers of commerce, and local businesses will team up to build a vast tent encampment at the vacant and abandoned Sugar Loaf property, which was once a cherished ski resort and Leelanau’s biggest year-round employer before gangsters, con-men and real estate tycoons closed it for good nearly 25 years ago. “We had the same housing and workforce crisis in the metropolis of Traverse City,” said Rikardo Liko, former Traverse City chancellor and Leelanau’s current interim county administrator. “But the tent encampment in the pines in the Grand Traverse Commons solved all that. We found that hardworking people who can’t afford to pay $3,000 per month for rent in northern Michigan, and can’t afford a $1 million home on the water, could instead live in tents in the woods and keep our tourism and service economics afloat.”

The paint on the parking lot was barely dry when the first car pulled up to Empire’s public beach to check out the innovative new grid that keeps vehicles, and people, more than 10 feet apart at all times. Two miles south on M-22, Harry Norconk was replanting his asparagus seeds six feet apart so the green spears won’t spread pathogens once they shoot out of the ground in mid-May.