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Interesting Jobs in the Michigan Thumb

Ms. Inglish is a successful employment & training pro, setting Midwest regional records with tens of thousands placed in gainful employment.

Michigan Thumb Icons

The Michigan Thumb is known for octagonal barns.

The Michigan Thumb is known for octagonal barns.

The Octagonal Thumb

The Thumb of Michigan is shaped like the thumb of a mitten and includes the four counties of Huron, Lapeer, Sanilac and Tuscola. St. Clair County is often considered part of the Thumb by many sources as well. Towns famous for their unique names in the Thumb include Bad Axe, Marine City, and Pigeon.

While each county has its unique history, some historic installations bind the Thumb together, such as sand dunes and eight-sided apple barns. One other includes the 1000-year-old artwork of Native Americans: Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park.

Petroglyphs in Bad Axe depict the Water Panther hunted and communed with by Native Americans, a cat which some historians feel is a mythical beast and others feel is real (similar to the fact that the Florida Panther turned out to be non-extinct and real, while some had thought it mythical).

Many figures also look like the Tricerotops dinosaur, but some examiners feel that the water panther could even be a Stegasaurus because of back frills or plates, but that is unclear. Super Big Cats, larger than 21st-century cougars roamed North America in those times, and likely moved too fast to see clearly in the vegetation.

The geography and local businesses of Detroit and the Thumb were used as a basis for settings within the popular long-running mystery novel series, The Cat Who... by Lilian Jackson Braun.

Ms. Braun was an editor for the Detroit Free Press for many years and had experiences in the Thumb as well. She combined several newspaper people she knew well into a singular character named James Mackintosh Qwilleran. a recovering alcoholic, crack news reporter, and playwright.

He has been on skid row as well as in the palace of life and gained two cat friends: Ko Ko and Yum Yum, named for characters from The Mikado as well as a famous Chinese artist.

Non-Michigan readers have delighted and wondered at the Octagon Apple Barn that the newsman converted into a home in The later Cat Who mysteries. In reality, the octagon barn is a staple of the Thumb agricultural landscape, as depicted in the accompanying photos. They make an interesting tourist attraction, along with many lighthouses, mine shaft houses, and tall sand dunes, to increase the health of the Hospitality and Tourism Industries in the Thumb.

Most famous Octa-Barn in Gage, MI. Public domain website.

Most famous Octa-Barn in Gage, MI. Public domain website.

Huron County is at the tip of the "Thumb." CLICK TO ENLARGE MAP.

Huron County is at the tip of the "Thumb." CLICK TO ENLARGE MAP.

No Worker Left Behind

Workers may qualify in Michigan for the No Worker Left Behind (NWLB) program if they are unemployed, have received a notice of termination or layoff, or if their family income is under $40,000 per year. Up to 2 years of paid education is available to eligible individuals through a network of accredited community colleges, universities, and local training programs. Call 1-800-285-works (9675).

The NWLB program helps workers gain employment in jobs that need workers, including the fast-growing and high-demand Jobs in the Thumb expected through at least 2016. The following list includes occupations that have been adding at least 100–600+ jobs across 6–8 years. This was not taken simply from a list, but compiled from multiple stats databases, private-sector job listings, and phone calls, because some occupations list a high percentage of increase while showing as little as 5 new jobs over a decade.

It is vitally important to train people for jobs that exist. To train workers for jobs that do not or may not exist in the future raises an unemployment rate.

The Top 10 High Demand, Fast Growing Jobs

  1. Medical & Clinical Laboratory Technicians
  2. Personal Care and other Service Jobs
  3. Hairdressers, Hairstylists and Cosmetologists
  4. Healthcare Technologies
  5. Registered Nurses [RNs]
  6. Heating/Air Conditioning/Refrigeration Professionals
  7. Healthcare Support Occupations
  8. Biuldings & Grounds Maintenance and Landscaping Techs
  9. Food Prep Staff and Wait Staff
  10. Retail and Wholesale Sales Persons, including Route Sales

Thumb Works! NWLB & More


  • PHONE: 989-635-3561
  • E-mail:
  • Web Site:

NWLB Training for Real Jobs

Education, training, and help in job placement are also available through NWLB for the following occupations that show evidence of actual growth, albeit at a bit slower rate than the Top 10.

Additional programs are available as well, with lesser chances of job placement, but still the possibility. call for details.

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  • Claims Adjusters and related positions: This says something about the insurance industry overall, perhaps that more insurance is sold or more people are filing claims, or both.
  • Healthcare: Dental hygienists, Physical Therapists, Physician Assistants
  • Management Positions, various fields
  • Management Analysts
  • Operating Engineers and related positions
  • Personal Financial Advisors: This is a good sign, indicating that people have and will have some money to invest.
  • Public Relations
  • Purchasing Agents
  • Computer Software Engineers, Apps & Systems; Computer Systems Analysts; Network and Computer Systems Administrators; Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts—All of these well-paying jobs are growing, but with not many jobs added yearly through 2016. However, as Healthcare businesses and some others continue to open/expand, more such IT jobs will be opened.


  • Carpenters
  • Cost Estimators
  • Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations
  • Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians, FAA Certified
  • Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer

Higher Education in the Thumb

  • St. Clair County Community College: Port Huron (Main Campus); Learning Center Branches in in Huron, Sanilac, and Lapeer Counties.
  • Baker College: Port Huron
  • Mott Community College: Flint
  • University of Michigan: Flint
  • Saginaw Valley State University: Saginaw, just west of the Thumb in the Mid-Michigan area.
St. Clair River (public domain)

St. Clair River (public domain)

Commerce With Canada

Port Huron is located in the Thumb and very close to Sarnia (actually Port Edward) Ontario, Canada.

Two bridges (The Blue Water Bridges) connect the two cities across the St. Clair River), along with two railroad tunnels. The two Blue Water Bridges cross the river via US I-69 and I-94, meeting Highway 402 in Canada on the other side.

Ferries are available to Canada from Marine City and Algonac in Michigan on the eastern border of the Thumb.

The Walpole-Algonac Ferry Line Ltd. serves primarily the city of Algonac, Michigan, and the First Nation reserve nearby. The ride takes 6 minutes to cross the lake and is available all year long, barring any ice obstacles. If you walk or bike onto the ferry, the fee is only $1.00.

Two additional ferry lines operate in the area. Algona sits on a fresh water delta in the Blue Water Area of Michigan and is located just about 50 miles northeast of Detroit. Sites to see in nearby Ontario Province include First Nations Festivals, including local nations, bands, and communities in Southwest Ontario Province.

Ferries to Windsor, Ontario

Sharing the St. Clair River

Largest Employers in the Thumb

Huron: Port Huron Service/Mfg

Tower Automotive: Sheet metal; Port Huron Hospital; Mercy Hospital; St. Clair County Community College; Scheurer Mdical Center

Lapeer: Lapeer City Service

Lapeer County Medical Care; County of Lapeer; North Branch Area Schools; Michigan Sept. of Mental Health; MI Dept. of Correction

Sanilac: Manufacturing

Lear Corp: Auto trim; Huron Inc: Screw machine & welding; Trelleborg Y S H Inc: Rubber; Dott Manufacturing: Plastics; Dean Pickle & Specialty Prdts: Pickles, peppers, relish

Tuscola: Manufacturing

Walbro Corp: Carburetors, injectors, etc.; Grede-Vassar Inc: Gray iron, castings, etc.; Walbro Automotive Corp: Electric fuel pumps; Kaumagraph Flint Corp: Automotive screen printing

St. Clair: Manufacturing

Britax Vision Systems, Automobile mirrors; Huron Plastics Group Inc, Custom injection mold thermoplastics; Mueller Brass: Copper & brass tubing; Bundy Corp: Fuel lines; Chrysler Corp: Sheet metal coating

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS


Mike Hardy from Caseville, Michigan on May 20, 2018:

Nicely done. Michigan’s Thumb Region struggles with providing high paying jobs. You offer a good resource for information.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 10, 2017:

Hi Randa! - It sounds like you have good experience. Have you tried looking in your city for EMT or health-related management jobs? Hospitals will sometimes pay for additional education after you become employed to update your skills or give you new ones. Best of luck and let me know how it goes.

Randa on October 10, 2017:

I am actually on the fence as what to do with my future.. I have a high school diploma and 3 years of medical RESA . After that I got my EMT certification. I have been a stay at home mom for 8 years and have had small side jobs during that time.. before that 8 years I do have some management history but for the most part that is as far as I go with experience. Seems to be hard to find anything I qualify for that I can be proud of or grow in.. I am a very hard worker and excel in everything I put my mind to. I am open to more education and have looked into programs. Just afraid I will get the education and still end up in this same position. Any ideas on education or careers that may train or educate to work would be greatly appreciated.. Will not disappoint if the opportunity presented itself ! thank you in advance!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 16, 2011:

Contact ThumbWorks in the blue box above in the article ASAP. Best wishes!

cory mccain on August 16, 2011:

I am from Pigeon. I am desperate for a job. I graduated from Lakers in 2002. I have worked in warehouses, box folding or building. I am so ready to try anything. One thing I am learning disabled so I need time to learn. I have been told there are great employers out there that will deal with us.

Emma from Houston TX on March 17, 2011:

Nice research and excellent documentary which really fascinated me.Thanks for sharing this.

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