The population in and around Niles, Michigan is up by an estimated 1,100 people at present.
While Niles has always been a nice place to live—it has now become a necessary place to live for those working to build a new Enbridge oil pipeline.
“Well there are 97 Enbridge employees, their contractor is Precision Pipeline and they have 1,100 people here,” said TyannaWeller with the Four Flags Area Chamber of Commerce. “It’s actually a lot more than what we thought we were expecting, we were expecting about 400.”
The number of pipeline workers now equals about ten percent of the typical population of Niles, although the temporary residents are living both inside and outside of the city limits.
Some of the out of town workers who were lured to Niles have been lured into the bait and tackle section of Trailhead Mercantile where they’ve had a real impact.
“I'm really appreciative to have them here, and I know there's been some people that have been a little negative about it because they’re running the pipeline but you know 99.9 percent of those guys are, they're working like anybody else would want to work,” said store owner Bryan Williams.
Trailhead Mercantile even extended its hours to try to accommodate the unusual schedules of its new customers.
“Usually we work six days a week, usually ten to twelve hours per day,” said Ned Hamilton, a pipeline worker from Tennessee.
When Hamilton is off work he lives in a pipeliner’s paradise—a Niles are campground where pipeline workers now account for 60 of the 70 units.
When asked if he was spending a lot of money in the local community, a pipeline worker and campground resident from Oklahoma said “sure.”
Robert Daniel said he had been spending a lot of time at Shelton’s Market. “I’m from Broken Bow, Oklahoma. I’ve been here for a couple of months, probably be here another month or so.”
“I guess the best restaurant that I tried was Lunker’s,” added Hamilton. “It was really good.”
At the Niles Inn, the pipeliners are currently occupying 40 rooms per night. That’s nearly half of the hotel’s total capacity.
“And they're visiting the restaurants, the other night I was getting my hair cut one wondered in to get his hair cut,” said Niles DDA Main Street Director Lisa Croteau.
The DDA even put together a coupon book to show the pipeliners what their adopted community could do for them. The pipeliners, in return, have shown what they’re willing to do for their adopted community.
“They asked me where a good place to donate money was and we suggested the Salvation Army Red Backpack Program and they went around to all their manager at a 6:00 a.m. meeting and rasied $1,900,” said Tyanna Weller with the Four Flags Area Chamber of Commerce. “They put it out to these 1,100 workers and raised $5,600 and Enbridge is matching that. So we’re going to have over $11,000 to give to Salvation Army.
The Four Flags Chamber of Commerce originally estimated that the pipeline workers would pump $1 million into the local economy, but the number of expected workers has nearly doubled.
Furthermore, the original estimate that the workers would remain in Niles through November has been altered. Officials are now being told that part of the project will extend through spring.