On Monday, the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners are set to decide whether to approve a request from a subcommittee of the Montcalm Alliance to enact a new millage increase to help economic development in our area — without putting it to a vote of the people.
Members of the Montcalm Alliance subcommittee say they have been meeting for a year to figure out how to create a more targeted and aggressive economic development approach for Montcalm County. The solution they came up with is to hire The Right Place, a respected West Michigan business and economic development agency that helps attract new business, as well as offers services for existing businesses looking to grow. The Right Place seems to have done good things in Ionia and Kent counties.
The Montcalm Alliance was formed in 1996 by a group of area entities and organizations to focus on bringing new businesses and jobs to Montcalm County. While the organization has claimed some successes during the past decade, most everyone involved agrees that in today’s economic climate — especially in Montcalm County — it needs stronger leadership and a more focused approach.
The Montcalm Alliance has to date been supported solely by member dues, many of which have not been paid in years. The subcommittee decided to approach county commissioners because while the Alliance has a positive balance in its bank account, the subcommittee says it’s not sustainable or enough to hire The Right Place.
By using Michigan’s Public Act 88 of 1913, commissioners can bypass a ballot initiative and vote for a countywide tax increase of up to 0.5 mills to help support agriculture and economic growth. The Alliance subcommittee is proposing a 0.1 mill tax increase for the next three years.
We are all for economic development and realize that figuring out how to better market our area isn’t something we can afford to debate or dilly dally on indefinitely. We need jobs. We love the idea of having a full-time economic development director who would be dedicated to growing jobs, who could communicate with key decisionmakers, establish relationships with site selection professionals and take part in relevant conferences and trade shows.
In fact, if our residents and public officials throughout the county had been given an opportunity to publicly discuss how we could either make the Alliance a more viable and effective organization or finance bringing The Right Place here, we might even be on board with supporting the requested 0.1 mill increase via PA 88. Transparency and communication are key to making the right decisions, especially when local taxpayers are being asked to finance the project.
But as it stands, the first time we — most of Montcalm County, in fact — heard about this subcommittee of the Alliance or its yearlong quest to find a way to bolster economic development was at the November meeting of the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners. And on Monday, the commissioners are set to vote on Alliance’s millage proposal.
Why the rush?
We know our county commissioners pride themselves on representing the people who voted them into office. We have elected them to do our bidding and make prudent decisions without undue micromanaging by the public. This proposal has definite validity and if it’s good now, it’s good in a month. Our only concern is the time frame. Let’s slow the process down and make sure that their constituents understand what is being asked of them.
Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.