History of Operation Action U.P.


“I think we all recognize that nothing happens unless some human being, or a group of human beings, decide that things are not right and that something positive must happen. And that is really the history of Operation Action in a very few words: a group of vigorous, imaginative human beings who decided that situations in the Upper Peninsula were not happening fast enough in a very important part of our state.” – Excerpt from John P. McGoff’s (President, Panax Corp.) speech at Operation Action U.P.’s Tenth Anniversary.


Returning from a conference on the Pacific Coast in 1962, Walker L. Cisler of Detroit Edison Co., thought out a plan for the Upper Peninsula. He founded Operation Action while chairman of the Michigan Economic Development Commission. He enlisted the help of Dr. Edgar L. Harden, then President of Northern Michigan University to set up the organizational meeting.


Working with the Upper Peninsula Advisory Committee of the Michigan Economic Development Commission, a series of meetings were held from Sault Ste. Marie in the east to Ironwood and Houghton in the west. Community leaders were brought together, their primary purpose the initiation of long-range economic development programs for the U.P. They identified problems, agreed on solutions and decided to work together on five projects:

  1. Update the Ebasco Report on Economic Growth Potentials for the Peninsula
  2. Conduct a study of energy resources to determine future demands and investment needed
  3. Conduct a survey of electric power in the Peninsula
  4. Prepare a brochure on “The Good Life in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” to accentuate advantages in the area for industry and commerce
  5. Conduct a series of seminars where the wide range of community concerns could be discussed with knowledgeable leaders from other parts of the state

This was formalized with a memorandum of understanding between Dr. Harden and Mr. Cisler, signed March 1, 1963, and an office opened in Marquette with William F. Wilson, as the first Executive Manager.


Thus Operation Action U.P. was born, destined to be a positive factor in the economic development of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Its members are leaders in industry, utilities, transportation, communication, mining, higher education and the legal and financial sectors. It is funded entirely by its members, who also contribute their time and talent as well as the resources of their organizations.


Operation Action U.P. has not publicized its efforts because it has been oriented toward ACTION not public relations. But Operation Action has been in the background of almost every major effort to upgrade the economy of the Upper Peninsula. Our hand has been felt in programs for:

  • Assisting industrial firms with problems of management and marketing
  • Aiding all industry by creating a more favorable business climate
  • Developing resource inventories for those counties seeking industrial recruitment
  • Supporting major cultural projects and the improvement of tourist facilities
  • Acting as an agent for Peninsula forces on the area’s transportation needs


Operation Action U.P. Video