HUBBELL - Halfway through what's so far been a harsh winter in the Keweenaw, homeowners and non-tourism private businesses are starting to feel an economic impact from snows that started early and haven't much slowed down.
All that snow has to be plowed and shoveled, and contractors in those businesses are having banner years. But for the owners of businesses and homes being plowed, or having their roofs shoveled professionally, the bills are adding up.
"We kind of consider it white gold for the plowing contractor," said Moyle Construction's Ed Marcotte, who coordinates Moyle's snow removal contracts for businesses such as Festival Foods, Taco Bell and McDonald's, as well as the Copper Country Mall and other Moyle properties.
Benjamin Dimmer of Dan Riutta Contracting uses a sledgehammer to clean ice buildup off the roof of a home in Hubbell. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Dan Roblee)
"It's unfortunate for the individual that has to pay for the extra work, but it's great for the contractor," he added.
Some businesses, like Houghton's Tadych's Econo Foods, try to keep down costs by buying necessary snow-removal equipment and scheduling their own employees to do the work.
Store manager Scott Rubich said heavy snows still increase costs as man-hours add up, and the store still has some extra expenses when it hires contractors with heavy equipment to move the huge snowbanks piling up from daily plowing.
But generally, he said, planning ahead keeps the costs manageable, even when snowbanks and costs are higher than normal.
"In my company, I'm the store it probably affects the most, so we gear up for it for the winter," he said. "I can control it by making sure we use our guys as much as possible, but I can't control nature."
He's already wondering whether he'll have to schedule employees to shovel the roof for a second time this year.
For homeowners without their own plow or snow-blower, it can be harder to control costs. Most small-scale truck drivers charge by the hour or per visit, and those visits are adding up.
A few plow drivers offer monthly contracts, but it's important to have a clear agreement of when plowing should occur in those cases.