"I work with a lot of companies in Michigan, and this is one of the few that can be a billion-dollar company," Arcadio Ramirez, technology business consultant for the Michigan Small Business Development Center, speaking about a small company in the Upper Peninsula called Neuvokas Corp.
It's the last place in Michigan you'd expect to find a billion-dollar company, this blue building surrounded by acres of fields and woods outside the small village of Ahmeek in the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Ahmeek and its brethren towns, Mohawk, Allouez and New Allouez, look more like ghost towns, many of their storefronts and houses, which were built along what is now U.S. 41 during the copper boom of the 1800s, sitting empty. (The highway begins at the northern tip of the Keweenaw, in Copper Harbor, and ends in a place as far removed from the U.P. in spirit and distance as you can get, Key West, Fla.)
The peninsula is filled with abandoned houses, abandoned mines and heaps of red conglomerate rock, waste byproduct piled up over decades by miners, which tourists still climb on, looking for nuggets of copper that have gone unfound for more than a century.
Even with the ghost towns and waste heaps, the Keweenaw is beautiful, heavily forested, big inland lakes, Lake Superior waves crashing onto craggy, rocky shores.
It's not a place, though, to look for riches.
Nothing would get you thinking of millions, let alone billions, but that's where you'll find Neuvokas Corp., in the former machine shop of the fabled No. 6 shaft of the Ahmeek Mining Co..."
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