Open Skies LLC

openskiesproject.org
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8107 Horace Greeley Rd
Mohawk, MI 49950

Calumet Air Force Station once played a critical role in the Cold War, with towering antennas guiding interceptor aircraft. Today, the early 1900’s military buildings stand as a reminder of that bygone era.

Zach Garner and Kyle Kary, along with family and friends, were intrigued by the station’s historical significance. When the property went up for public auction they decided to take a chance. To their surprise, their bid was accepted, making them the unlikely owners of a 20-year-abandoned facility surrounded by thousands of acres of forest in Michigan’s rural Keweenaw County. They chose to name their endeavor Open Skies Project in reference to the Treaty on Open Skies, an agreement between NATO and Warsaw Pact nations at the end of the Cold War that allowed for surveillance of each other’s military bases. The name seemed very fitting, as the goal is to open the station to public viewing once again. 

While passionate about history, Zach and his team lacked business experience. Recognizing this challenge, they sought guidance from the Michigan SBDC’s Associate Regional Director, Daniel Yoder. Daniel’s expertise proved invaluable. He provided counsel on property development, business plan creation, access to capital, and local connections. Most importantly, he encouraged them to host a stakeholder meeting, which brought diverse community perspectives to the table.

One key insight was the potential for historical tours. With some promotion from Visit Keweenaw, their local convention and visitors bureau, the team welcomed nearly 1,000 visitors last summer who were eager to explore this piece of Cold War history. To further their mission, Open Skies established a non-profit organization dedicated to fundraising for and operating a museum on the mountaintop.

Calumet Air Force Station’s transformation from a forgotten relic to a thriving tourist destination is a testament to the team’s dedication and the invaluable support of the Michigan SBDC. With a museum on the horizon, their journey of historical preservation promises to continue attracting visitors and enriching the community for years to come.

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