Obama to shine spotlight on web-savvy Mich. town

By John Flesher

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 9 2011 5:45 p.m. MST

The situation is far different in Marquette, the peninsula's largest city. V.I.O., the helmet camera company, sells, markets and distributes its products online to customers in dozens of countries from its downtown office. Its website, operated by a local company, features videos made by an extreme snowmobiler streaking down mountain slopes and troops in a firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"People are quite shocked to learn we're operating from the U.P., especially if they have any familiarity with the area," sales associate Patrick Myron said. "This is where we want to be, this is where we want to raise our families. Without reliable Internet, we couldn't do it."

The web also is a lifeline for Getz's Clothiers down the street. Founded in the 1880s, the retailer's shelves are packed with clothes for outdoor work and play — coats, boots, jeans, jogging suits. The venerable store went online in 1997, and now generates two-thirds of its sales from the Internet. Its online staffers are Northern Michigan University graduates.

"People see us online and it helps get them through the door," manager Dennis Mingay said.

Some of the area's web-based workers are telecommuters whose companies are based in other states.

"My co-workers look longingly at what I do and wish they could work from home," said Jim Argeropoulos of Marquette, an engineer for a Wisconsin educational software company.

Stu Bradley, a retired Air Force colonel once stationed at a now-defunct base near Marquette, returned to the area after retiring and later served as the city's mayor. Nowadays he's among the founders of a website where small vendors from across the peninsula advertise wares ranging from knives to jewelry to maple syrup.

"We're really an example of what the president is talking about," Bradley said. "We wouldn't be in existence if it wasn't for the web."

Online:

Getz's Clothiers: http://www.getzs.com

V.I.O. Inc.: http://www.vio-pov.com

Northern Michigan University: http://www.nmu.edu

Marquette Backcountry Ski: http://www.marquette-backcountry.com

MIUpperHand: http://www.miupperhand.com.

Online:

http://www.nmu.edu

http://www.marquette-backcountry.com

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