Boosting our area’s economic development efforts has been a heated topic of conversation in Montcalm County on and off since the fall of last year. Who should spearhead the drive? How should it funded? What entities should be involved?
There were more questions than answers during those initial conversations, but no one questioned the need to help attract business to our area.
This week a plan by one local organization to actively start working on economic development for Greenville came to light during Tuesday’s Greenville City Council meeting. And we think it’s a good start.
Tuesday was the first mention publicly that the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce is working to secure funding to fulfill a contract with The Right Place, a West Michigan economic development organization. An anonymous local donor has volunteered $25,000 for each of the next three years to help fund the $50,000 needed annually to hire a part-time Right Place employee who will focus on economic development in Greenville. On Tuesday, the City Council approved contributing $5,000 for each of the next three years toward that effort.
That leaves $20,000 a year for the chamber to raise, which co-Director Candy Kerschen is optimistic will happen. She plans to seek those funds from community sources.
This is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that needs to be applied when it comes to economic development. A local organization representing local businesses figuring out a way to get The Right Place ball rolling in our area.
Last fall, members of a Montcalm County Alliance subcommittee presented a plan — that came as a surprise to most and required fast action — asking the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners to use Michigan’s Public Act 88 to approve a special millage that would bypass a vote of the people to fund the Alliance partnering with The Right Place. The proposal died after commissioners declined to vote on the proposal.
People did not like the idea of a tax being put into place without more of a transparent process and without guarantees of what the money would actually be able to do.
On Monday, more than three dozen area leaders gathered at Montcalm Community College to talk about this very same issue — how to get economic development efforts started. At that meeting, the idea of funding a full-time Right Place employee who would work for more of a countywide effort was discussed. Options for raising funds ranged from using P88 to using funds that might be saved by consolidating townships and/or school districts.
There have been rumblings at County Commissioner meetings during the past handful of months that a Greenville group was going to splinter off of the countywide effort and launch their own agreement with The Right Place. The bottom line is that we have to start somewhere and starting on this smaller, more manageable scale, with a hyper focus on Greenville, makes sense. Our hope is that the move is successful and can demonstrate to area residents and their local and county representatives that The Right Place is well worth the investment.
Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.