Tikkanen leaves Main Street Calumet

CALUMET – Main Street Calumet is going through some financial difficulties, and as a result, the board of directors had to let go executive director Tom Tikkanen.

Tony Abe, MSC board chairman, said the decision to let Tikkanen go was a difficult one because he was so influential in creating and keeping the organization operating for 10 years.

“We just don’t have the money coming in,” Abe said. “It was just time we had to reorganize. It’s not fair to Tom.”

Although there is enough money in the event fund to keep some events, such as Christmas in Calumet, going, there is no money for much else.

“Our general fund is down to nothing,” he said.

Abe said the funding for MSC is one-third to one-half from grants, the rest comes from members, donations, businesses and for administration fees for events put on by other groups.

Abe said the MSC board of directors wants to completely restructure the organization and hope to have it done by the start of 2014.

They want to make certain the organization is financially stable before searching for a new executive director, however.

Although MSC is on hiatus now, Abe said the organization is credited through Michigan Main Street through 2014.

Main Street Calumet came into existence after Michigan Main Street was restructured from a similar program in the 1980s, Tikkanen said.

“There were a number of us, as community organizers, who got together in an ad hoc group and applied for the program,” he said.

Tikkanen said that ad hoc group consisted of about two dozen people from the Calumet Village, Portage Township and Houghton County government, the former Keweenaw Industrial Council, the Keweenaw Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, the Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Keweenaw National Historical Park.

“It was a good widespread group,” he said.

Tikkanen said he made the group’s presentation for membership to Main Street Michigan officials in Lansing, and although the odds were against them, they were accepted.

“We were awarded, against all odds, really, because it was a highly sought-after program,” he said.

“They were only handing out four.”

Because of the strength of his presentation to Michigan Main Street officials and because of his involvement with the Calumet Downtown Development Authority, Tikkanen said he was asked by the members of the group, which sought application into the Main Street program, to become its first executive director.

Although the original contract for the executive director position was for three years, Tikkanen said each year after he was asked to stay on in, and he felt he couldn’t say no.

Main Street Calumet is unique among other Main Street programs in that it’s a nonprofit entity not funded by a local government, Tikkanen said.

“Calumet simply couldn’t afford it,” he said.

Although most people are aware of Main Street Calumet because of its events, including PastyFest, Heritage Celebration, the Red Metal Radio Show and the Main Street Calumet Market, Tikkanen said there is much more going on involving revitalization of downtown through the organization’s design and economic restructuring committees helping to obtain building facade grants and grants to renovate buildings.The national Main Street program began 33 years ago as a function of the National Trust for Historic Preservation to save deteriorating downtowns. There are 18 Michigan Main Street communities. The only other Upper Peninsula community is Iron Mountain.

Tikkanen said he thinks MSC has been successful because of its following the national Main Street four-point concept of organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring. It has received several state and national awards, also.

There are 11 MSC board of directors members, now, and Tikkanen said over the last 10 years, the board members have worked hard to improve downtown Calumet.

“I think it’s been a bit of a challenge for our board of directors,” he said. “Many of them have been with the program the entire 10 years. It’s a constant struggle. It’s a good struggle.”

Abe said Tikkanen was a very important part of MSC, and his efforts will be missed.

“It’s going to be tough without Tom,” he said. “He was the go-to guy.”

Tikkanen said he’ll now concentrate on his real estate business, which he has been doing all along, but now he will be able to put all his effort into it. He intends to continue to be active in the revitalization of Calumet, however. “I love this town,” he said. “It’s my hometown.”