By Bob Spence
Since 1893, Spence Brothers has built landmark projects for public benefit across Michigan, many of which are in the heart of Traverse City.
We have built schools, city halls, post offices, VA hospitals, college sports arenas, office buildings, wastewater treatment plants and many other public projects. Recent local partners include Hickory Hills, Traverse City Light & Power and Northwestern Michigan College. Each of these faced their own unique challenges and occasionally opposition. And yet, each is still standing. We have been around long enough to spot the kinds of exemplary projects that will forever improve the landscape of a community. FishPass is this generation’s gamechanger for Traverse City.
As contractors, we have been in the thick of community debate. We’ve learned that it’s often a small, vocal minority resisting important projects — like FishPass. We’re used to this, and yet, we’re entirely optimistic that FishPass will come to fruition because it’s the right thing for this river and the many species who call it home.
We were one of eight contractors to pursue this globally significant project. The United States Army Corps of Engineers could have awarded the bid to a firm from anywhere, but because it came to Spence Brothers, 35 of our local employees and 15 local subcontractors with over 150 employees will be put to work. Millions of dollars in wages will support local families, thanks to FishPass.
In addition to the hundreds of local laborers who will be directly impacted through working on FishPass, we also anticipate using local and Michigan-made materials. We estimate that the construction of FishPass will put up to $5 million back into the local economy through material purchase, construction equipment rental and other non-employment metrics.
Construction delay costs, while this project is tied up in litigation, do nothing to restore fish, build public amenities, plant trees or contribute back to the community.
Change has never come easily to Traverse City. We’re often quick to reject new endeavors for fear of growth. But smart growth is necessary, and it’s what has allowed me and my fourth-generation family business to call this place home for so many years.
The transformation of the Boardman/Ottaway River to date has been nothing short of remarkable. I happen to be an angler; I love to fish! The idea of being a part of FishPass, a project that’ll forever change how the world approaches invasive species management, was too exciting of an opportunity to pass up.
FishPass is a win for the City, the Boardman/Ottaway River, the Great Lakes, and the people who will be employed through its construction. FishPass is an opportunity to honor the legacy of our family business by building a critical piece of infrastructure in the heart of our hometown. This local connection means that we care deeply about the outcome of the project. We want to be associated with a project that will stand the test of time and will be an iconic focal point of our community.
We’re ready and excited to get to work.
About the author: Bob Spence III is regional president of Spence Brothers. He lives and works in Traverse City, where he also serves on the Board of Directors of the City Opera House and the Association of General Contractors. He served on the boards of Traverse City Light & Power and the Small Business Association of Michigan. For the past 15 years, Spence serves as the assistant coach for the Traverse City West hockey team and he is an avid outdoorsman.