GREENVILLE — The longer the wait to market the area for economic development, the more potential jobs and revenue are lost.
This was what was on the mind of city of Greenville officials when they opted to wait no longer for a countywide effort for funding local economic development, which has helped move forward a contract between the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce and The Right Place for economic development in the Greenville area.
The city would not be a part of the contract, as it just opted to provide funding toward an agreement.
“We have been working for almost two years on putting together a plan that is a countywide effort regarding economic development through the Montcalm Alliance,” City Manager George Bosanic said. “There has always been a piece that has been missing and opportunities lost for a time. And comparatively, looking at counties around us, they have been implementing practices that have yielded more success than we (have).
“Two years have passed and the other entities have succeeded in creating jobs and investment at a greater degree than we have in this county. The statistics are very accurate and are very telling. There has been some discussion of how long is it going to take?”
The council voted unanimously Tuesday to designate $5,000 per year for three years toward a contract between the Greenville Chamber and The Right Place, a West Michigan economic development organization.
However, council members made clear they hoped this effort would be a springboard into a countywide plan for economic development and could serve as a small base for moving the entire county forward, something officials said they were still hoping for and would still work toward.
“We don’t want this to be something that divides us from the county. It would be something that, if we could start smaller and quicker, then it could transfer over to a larger effort countywide,” Bosanic said. “Anything done here would parlay into a greater effort.”
The commitment comes on the heels of an area resident who approached the Greenville Chamber willing to make an personal commitment to economic development in the community.
Bosanic said the individual, who was not named, is willing to dedicate $25,000 per year for three years toward the cost of a contract between the Greenville Chamber and The Right Place, the total of which was estimated at around $50,000 per year.
This means the remaining $20,000 needed for the contract would have to be raised through the Chamber, something Co-Director Candy Kerschen, who was present Tuesday, said she was optimistic could happen.
“We feel very confident we can get the rest of the support from the community,” she told the council.
The contract, if finalized, would mean a part-time person with The Right Place would be designated solely for economic development in Greenville, especially that of retaining and obtaining base jobs, described by Kerschen as jobs that create a product locally to be sold outside the county, bringing in new money.
Bosanic said he was still quite optimistic a countywide economic development effort can and will succeed. He added the city planned to continue to take part in that conversation.
“Through a lot of discussion and through a lot of collaboration, this is going in the right direction and looks like it’s going to be a meaningful effort and result in a meaningful plan and it’s something we’ll stay involved with,” he said.
However, Bosanic felt the city could no longer delay promoting itself to prospective businesses while also working with its current business people in retaining and adding jobs.
“There is a lot of uncertainty still, with questions and concerns,” he said. “I thought it would be very timely and very appropriate for the city of Greenville to be the first to step up and say we’re in it.”
Council members all agreed.
“If we can retain 50 jobs, if we can help one of our existing businesses to expand or we could bring in some new manufacturing or a new business to the area. I think it’s well worth it,” said Councilman Larry Moss. “To me, it just makes perfect sense to do this.”
“We think of this as not an expense but an investment,” Councilwoman Frances Schuleit added. “I don’t think we can afford not to do it.”
No contract between the Greenville Chamber and The Right Place has yet been finalized.
Council members hoped the agreement would be another step in getting Greenville back on economic track.
“We have a track record of being hit hard and coming back and we’ve been proactive and I think people respect Greenville,” Councilwoman Jean Cunliffe said. “I think we’re on the right path to move forward and be proactive. We were elected to represent the people and do the best for our community and I think this is one way we can do that.”