LAKEVIEW — Five years ago, the village of Lakeview was in trouble. The small community was hemorrhaging jobs; foreclosures were rampant; the schools were being listed as “at risk” by the state.
What a difference five years can make. At the Lakeview Area Community Fund’s (LACF) annual Community Dinner, held Thursday evening at the high school, business, school and government leaders gathered with community members to celebrate a few of the great strides Lakeview has made in the last half-decade.
Village Manager James Freed addressed the 200 or so residents in attendance.
“Five years ago we were facing a financial firestorm,” Freed said. “We were one of the highest unemployment counties in Michigan. We had to figure out what we were good at, what we do better than anyone. (Since then) we’ve kept taxes low, produced stable operating budgets and have seen 20 new businesses come to town.”
Freed also noted that more than 60 new, good-paying jobs and over $20 million in new investments have flowed into Lakeview in recent years, with more on the horizon. Two new assisted living facilities — Lakeview Terrace and Bell Tower Retirement Community — both currently under construction, bring in a combined dollar amount of just under $4 million.
Expansion underway at Parker Hannifin represents an investment of $3 million in new equipment and machines and over 10 new jobs. Likewise, extensive renovations at Alley Cat Bar and Grille Bowling Alley total and investment of about $1 million and the creation of over 25 new jobs.
Spectrum Health Family Medicine’s expansion also represents an investment of about $1 million.
Superintendent of Public Schools Kyle Hamlin also was on hand to discuss the gains made within the school system. Where just a few years ago, Lakeview schools were considered “at risk,” the system is now rated as one of the best in the state.
“We’ve gone from being an at risk school to a reward school,” Hamlin said. “Our purpose as a district is to go through all the hurdles and in the end, shine.”
Hamlin credited much of the improvement at the school to a dedicated staff willing to make economic concessions during financially troubling times, innovative new programs, and unflagging community support.
Hamlin noted many of the improvements to school facilities currently under way are thanks to the recent passage of a bond issue. These include the expansion of Bright Start Elementary School, upgrades to the roofs of the high and middle schools and a complete renovation of the bus garage, along with new school busses.
Representatives from Lakeview Family Medicine, Belle Tower Estates, Alley Cat Bar and Grille and Parker Hannifin also addressed the crowd.
Parker Hannifin manager Tammi Selesky noted that income at the business went from $28 million in 2008 to $46 million this year.
“That’s a big increase over that time,” Selesky said. “We’ve put about $1.5 million into the business, including five state of the art machines and infrastructure improvements. We’re looking to add another $2.5 million.”
Village President Ed Winter extolled the many improvements made over the past year at Lakeside Park on Lincoln Avenue. These include increasing the green space there three-fold, construction of a new stage for live performances and a lighted pathway and pier over the lake.
“This village is an amazing place to live,” Winter said.
The LACF awarded four separate grants near the conclusion of the dinner to: the Trufant Lighthouse, an after school youth center; the county’s Great Start collaborative program; the Montcalm Intermediate School Districts “Cool to be Kind” anti-bullying program; and Spectrum Health Foundation’s “Save Our Child” drunk driving education program.
As in past years, the foundation presented “Quality of Life” awards to a deserving organization and individual in Lakeview.
This year’s organization award went to the Lakeview District Fire Department, which had several members present to accept the award.
The individual award went to James and May Wood, for their years of service to the community. The Woods accepted the award and James Wood used the opportunity to promote his ongoing project — a veteran’s memorial at the entrance of the high school, which features the names of nearly 900 veterans who at one time attended Lakeview schools.
Freed offered these remarks near the close of the ceremony.
“Tonight I see a beautiful community and a brilliant people rising from the challenges of this decade, a decade that has brought moments we could not foresee and will not forget,” Freed said. “We’ve learned that the challenges we face are real, but so is our courage to overcome them.”