‘Serious issue:’ Economic development talks persist

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 9:53 am on Wednesday, March 12, 2014

STANTON — Montcalm County government contributes less annually to economic development than five other neighboring counties.
That’s according to Commissioner John Johansen of Montcalm Township who presented those statistics at Monday’s Montcalm County Board of Commissioners Economic Development & Physical Resources Committee meeting.

Barry County government contributes the most with a $63,394 contribution, or 52.8 percent of that county’s $120,000 economic development budget. Newaygo County contributes $45,500, or 30.3 percent of that county’s $150,000 economic development budget. Mecosta County contributes $30,000, or 30 percent of that county’s $100,000 economic development budget. Finally, Ionia County contributes $17,100, or 14.4 percent of that county’s $118,837 economic development budget.

Meanwhile, Montcalm County contributes $5,000, or 7.7 percent of the Montcalm Alliance’s annual $65,000 economic development budget.

“We are unfortunately down there at the bottom rung,” Johansen said. “I think it’s a serious issue that we need to probably address in the future.”

As part of Monday’s economic development discussion, commissioners voiced their confusion about conflicting reports as to whether Greenville officials are moving forward with their own economic development plan — as Commissioner Ron Blanding of Greenville continues to report — or whether the county should move forward with its own plan as a whole.

“That movement (in Greenville) does not have traction, that’s the best way to put it at this time,” said Johansen of Blanding’s claim. “I think it would be unfortunate if we did not go forward as a county issue and have a segment of the county go forward because we did not take action on it. People are asking for a resolution to this issue of economic development.”

Late last year, subcommittee members of the Montcalm Alliance asked the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners to approve a property tax increase to fund the Alliance’s effort to join forces with The Right Place, a West Michigan economic development organization. Alliance subcommittee members wanted commissioners to approve a special millage via Michigan’s Public Act 88, which would bypass a vote of the people. The proposal moved forward in committee meetings, but the idea died in January after commissioners declined to vote on the proposal, effectively killing it.

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