Commissioners pledge $25,000 per year to Montcalm Alliance

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 10:11 am on Monday, June 30, 2014

Montcalm Community College Vice President of Academic Affairs Rob Spohr, right, delivers a presentation focused on funding the Montcalm Alliance to the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners Monday afternoon at the County Administration Building in Stanton. — Daily News/Cory Smith

STANTON — When it comes to financing an effort to grow and strengthen economic development in Montcalm County, the Montcalm Alliance officially has another ally.

In a unanimous vote Monday afternoon, the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to contribute $25,000 to the Montcalm Alliance for the next three years “to enhance the effort of economic development within Montcalm County and the region.”

The county has historically contributed $5,000 per year to the Alliance.

The decision came after a presentation from Montcalm Community College Vice President of Academic Affairs Rob Spohr, who explained that the Montcalm Alliance intends to use the funds to partner with The Right Place, a West Michigan economic development organization.

“Right now, we have an opportunity to get the funds in place and enter into a three-year contract and get some data,” he said. “Once we have data showing that his works, then we can decide what our next step is in funding this long-term.”

Spohr said in Michigan’s Prosperity Region Four, of which Montcalm County is one of 13 counties in the region, The Right Place is the recognized economic development entity.

“This is about economic development to help everyone in the county,” he said. “Aligning with our prosperity region is critical. The Right Place is the place to start and we are asking for your support.”

Within the past month, both the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Greenville City Council have dedicated money to contract with The Right Place for economic development.

The city of Greenville agreed on a $5,000-per-year commitment, while the chamber will receive $25,000 per year from a donation on behalf of chamber member Bill Braman, leaving the Chamber to raise a remaining $20,000 per year.

City officials have stated they hoped their actions would serve as a “springboard,” and that the county would follow suit in providing additional funds to partner with The Right Place.

Commissioner Patrick Q. Carr of Lakeview, concerned about the future of working together with Greenville and other entities, is hoping the agreement with the Montcalm Alliance will properly coincide with Greenville’s efforts.

“If everybody gets on board, will what Greenville has done evolve into a countywide effort?” he asked.

According to Spohr, once another entity in the county commits to a contract, all funds are forwarded to the county, effectively creating a joint effort with Greenville.

Spohr said a total of $125,000 is needed to contract with The Right Place, and asked for a contribution of $25,000 from the county per year for three years.

“If we do that, are you confident that you’ve got other places to raise the (remaining) balance?” Carr asked.

Spohr said he believes most townships within the county are “ready to move now” and provide financial support after seeing Greenville take action.

Commissioner Ron Blanding of Greenville said entering into a contract agreement to provide funds to the Alliance is the right thing to do.

“I appreciate the fact that $50,000 in guarantees have already been made from sources in Greenville,” he said. “I just think that we should commit ourselves. The city of Greenville made the first commitment to get the ball rolling, and we can do the same thing as a county. I think we owe it to the residents of the county to be leaders, not followers.”

Commissioner Ron Baker of Howard City agreed.

“Most counties do not have the wrong idea, most counties donate in excess of $25,000,” he said. “Most counties have the right idea and most counties align with an organization like The Right Place, so I’m in full support.”

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