How Golf Transformed a Community Along Lake Michigan – The Story of Harbor Shores Resort

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Whirlpool Corporation’s Partnerships Create Blueprint for $900 Million Community Economic Revitalization

Harbor Shores Resort, host of the 2022 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, sits on a site where 6,000 manufacturing jobs were lost over an 18-month period in the 1980s. Most of these buildings sat empty for years, leaving roughly three million square feet of industrial materials and contaminated soil—enough to fill a football field 80 feet tall.

Harbor Shores and its multi-purpose development over the last 10 years with world-class residential, hotel and golf amenities signaled a turning point in Benton Harbor’s history. The Jack Nicklaus Signature Design golf course was a core component of the development located on the shores of Lake Michigan and the Paw Paw River. This community revitalization stands as a remarkable testament to a vision made possible by $900 million in strategic investments, a collective set of projects with collaborating community leaders and organizations led by the Whirlpool Foundation and its benefactor, global home appliance leader Whirlpool Corporation. See video links below:

Community Revitalization Video Series – https://www.harborshoresresort.com/anniversary

More than 75 years ago, Benton Harbor became a booming industrial town during World War II, when local Whirlpool plants and factories were transformed into F.D.R.’s arsenal of democracy, manufacturing components for fighter planes. The town then evolved into a vibrant manufacturing center in the 50s and 60s only to see it all disappear over the next two decades leading community leaders to recognize that change was needed.

“Before construction of Harbor Shores, the area was in need of a monumental project that could have the scale to bring about real change, with a focus on Benton Harbor,” said Jeff Noel, Vice President of Communication & Public Affairs for Whirlpool Corp. “While the golf course may generate most of the publicity, this community is consistently working on projects to ensure a better quality of life for everyone. Using golf to bring people together to give back remains an ongoing mission and is the proud center of the Harbor Shores story.”

The golf course, which Jack Nicklaus has tabbed as one of his 18 favorite designs of all time, was built largely on what was once polluted land crowded with factories: holes No. 4 and No. 5 were a dumping site for a company that made automobile brakes. Holes No. 14 and 15 were a former Superfund site once occupied by a company that used radium and mercury to manufacture components for fighter planes. Through remarkable engineering and vision, today, the course runs across four remarkably diverse and beautiful terrains including a photogenic setting along the coastal dunes of Lake Michigan.

The First Tee of Benton Harbor was also created as part of the development. Headquartered at the Harbor Shores Golf Club, the program impacts more than 1,000 children annually, and is the only First Tee program of its kind in the Midwest to be located at a golf facility.

Today, Harbor Shores is one of the region’s best places to live, work and play. The development has become part of the community fabric, bringing jobs, pride and a discerning class of travelers to its thriving community. The resort dedicates itself to ensuring that more than 40 percent of its employees (golf course and hotel) are from the distressed census tracts in and around Benton Harbor. In all, 3,200+ new jobs have been created by community partners, including the Cornerstone Alliance and Berrien County economic development organizations in the area, since 2010. The economic impact from area tourism revenue has seen significant increases each of the last five years.

The direct spike in jobs, redevelopment, new homebuyers, tax base, vacationers and civic pride from the sprawling resort and residential development over the last 10 years is almost incomprehensible considering what stood on these shores just a decade ago. From lot after lot of abandoned manufacturing plants and industrial waste sites, to a focal point in a community that has been sustainably and measurably revitalized, Harbor Shores and the surrounding area is a decade-long chapter into a remarkable journey. Visit www.harborshoresresort.com.

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Glen Turk is a Wisconsin native who has been the Senior Writer/Editor of Midwest Golfing Magazine since 2006. Besides being an avid golfer, Glen enjoys traveling, music, and cheering on the finest professional sports team of all-time, the Green Bay Packers. Glen’s ultimate golf goal is to play in all fifty states and currently he is more than half way there. His other dream, albeit far-fetched, it to record an ace in all seven states of our distribution area. Thanks to an ace in Illinois in 2015, and one in Michigan in 2016, he has three down, four to go!

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