Gwinn Sawyer Chamber of Commerce Homepage  
The Chamber
Chamber History
Gwinn History
Sawyer History
New Swanzy
Forsyth Township


Sawyer In Review

Karen Anderson
Mike Prokopowicz

Eight and a half years ago the federal government made the decision to close K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base. The decision meant the loss of more than 4,500 jobs and a military payroll of over $100 million per year. The anticipated impact to the area and economy was almost beyond comprehension. However, many individuals and agencies did not give up on Sawyer. Rather, they saw the prospect of developing a community and creating new, diverse economic opportunities.

This issue of the Sawyer News is dedicated to telling the Sawyer story since 1993. It has taken a tremendous financial and personal investment of effort, dedication and hard work, but we are building a community to be proud of, one that will continue to benefit the entire Marquette County area.

K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base Facts
Annual operating cost: $19.2 million
Size: 5,200 acres
Housing Units: 1,650
History: Originally a civilian airport
Air Force Base established 1956

"SHOT DOWN" reads The Mining Journal headline on June 25, 1993.

AP, Washington - The moment of truth has come for Sawyer Air Force Base. After long deliberations, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission voted unanimously to accept the Pentagon's closure recommendation.

Representative Bart Stupak indicates that putting the same vigor into converting the base, as was put into trying to save it, would make Sawyer's transition to civilian use a model for the nation.

Unemployment rate projected to soar to 24.2 percent.

Herb Parsons, executive director of the Marquette Area Chamber of Commerce, indicates that a conversion group will be formed.

First Base Conversion Authority is appointed under legal authority that authorizes a 5-year existence. Governance options considered. Ellwood Mattson, Chairman, states "…It is important to conclude a governance agreement to assure prospective businesses that the Base will continue to operate after the Authority ceases to exist."

"GOODBYE, Last B-52 prepares to leave Sawyer" - The Mining Journal headlines read on November 22, 1994 . Base mission ends with the plane's departure.

Ellwood Mattson, chairman of the Sawyer Base Conversion Authority was quoted , "There will be tears of sadness for many of us left behind. I will be a part of those that will shed tears,…But the Air Force is leaving us a $300 million asset in our care and if we can all work together, we can turn this base around and use it to build a new and better tomorrow for all of us."

June - Tom Rumora is hired as director of K.I.Sawyer Development Department. Rumora continues to direct Sawyer re-development until September, 2001.

August - The 410th Bomb Wing retires its colors at Sawyer Air Force Base after more than three decades.

First civilian businesses open at Sawyer: Gwinn-Sawyer Veterinary Clinic, SENCO Inc., Marplex, Ramrod Hydraulics, R&G Management (Red Fox Woods Golf Course)

"Community ready to bounce back", The Mining Journal, August 2, 1995. Bud Zeug, president of the Gwinn Area Business Association reports that "Just in the last few weeks we've had seven new businesses come on line. We have businesses that are growing. It didn't kill the spirit of the people of Gwinn. We have people here working hard to make things happen."

June unemployment rate at 8.3 percent, a 1.8 percent increase over June 1994.

Residents: 2

Ed Bailey newly hired Sawyer Base Conversion Authority director of operations, "I'm feeling very positive about the future of the base." Bailey remains in this position through 2000.

September 30 - Sawyer closes as a military base at midnight.

Summer - Lake Superior Jobs Coalition forms to help spark development at former AFB. Coalition is instrumental in re-locating Marquette County Airport to Sawyer.

August - AMR Eagle agrees to locate maintenance center at Sawyer, making a 25-year commitment.

October - Sault Ste. Marie Tribe takes over management of 275 homes and begins the first residential rentals.

March - Boreal Aviation begins its operation to provide all aircraft ground services, starting with three employees, growing to 15 by 2001.

April - Marquette County assumes control of Caretaker operations and Development Authority

K.I.Sawyer Business Alliance is formed to represent Sawyer's growing business community.

Fall - Sawyer Lumber opens a $43-million high-tech sawmill, the first of its kind in the Midwest; by March, 1998 employs 107 people; January, 1999 employs 210.

December - West Branch Township takes lease on Health and Fitness Center (future home of South Marquette County YMCA)

January - Sawyer Medical Center opens in former credit union, where they remain for one year; moves to former child development center January, 1999.

April - Progressive Tool (Now Comau/PICO) begins operations at Sawyer as automotive tool design firm with 17 employees.

Hamlin employs 50.

June - First Annual Sawyer EXPO organized by Sawyer businesses to showcase current and potential development opportunities

Fall - Victory Lutheran Church - first operating church at Sawyer since base closure

December - First Issue of Sawyer Tri Township News published by Sawyer Business Alliance; published by K.I. Sawyer Development until 2001; published by Sawyer Community Association and Marquette County, 2001.

continue >>

Gwinn Sawyer Chamber of Commerce
248 Wellington Drive, Gwinn, MI 49841
Phone: 888.346.4946 or 906.346.9666 |