The area surrounding Mancelona was settled by farmers in the 19th century, and the Township of Mancelona was established in 1871. Shortly thereafter, the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad came to the region and expanded trading reach to the rest of northwest Michigan. Aside from farming, the abundance of maple trees made charcoal readily accessible, which helped new industries, such as crude iron, grow the region rapidly. By 1900 Mancelona-Antrim was the largest village in the county, with the Antrim Iron Company as an economic driver.
Antrim Iron eventually closed down in 1945 due to the scarcity of trees and more advanced technologies, and farmers transitioned to growing potatoes which remains the predominant crop.
Given its beautiful surroundings and central location, outdoor recreation has remained a major draw for tourists to the area. Recreational developments flank the Opportunity Zone, with the Lakes of the North Recreation Community in the east and Schuss Mountain Ski Resort to the west.
Current Industry Drivers
Manufacturing, specifically metal fabrication, is the largest industry in the Antrim area. More than a fifth of the workforce is employed in this field. Tourist-related businesses, such as accommodation and food services, are a close second for economic influence, with nearly 18% of the workforce. This is reflective of the robust recreational offerings the region has to offer.
Retail trade and social and health services are also major industry drivers, employing 11% and 7% of the workforce, respectively.
Antrim County continues to build on its recreational offerings and offer all-weather outdoor entertainment for any season. It strives to be a natural getaway destination for those who are trying to escape the crowds of the more traditional resort-heavy towns on Lake Michigan.
The Village of Mancelona, on the western-most edge of the Antrim Opportunity Zone, is the retail and employment center of the region. This is where the major manufacturing employers are located, as well as the downtown food and retail establishments.
Outside of downtown Mancelona, employment and development extends along Route U.S. 131 which bisects the region from north-south.