EDMORE — Edmore Downtown Development Authority President Jack Miller wanted to show local officials the progress that has been made at the old General Bag Corp. factory building.
Incoming 70th District State Rep.-elect (and former Edmore village manager) Jim Lower, R-Cedar Lake, and outgoing Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, recently toured the facility with Miller. It was a thank-you tour of sorts, in which he showed Lower and Outman what was being done with the grants they worked to obtain for the village.
“This is mostly a send off for Rick, thanking him,” Miller said. “Rick and James worked hard — and (Sen. Judy Emmons), too — pushing on MEDC to help us.”
Since June, when the Edmore Village Council awarded Griffith Builders, a Lakeview-based general contracting company, a $1.29 million bid to begin renovating the old building, much work has been done, such as making room for a new elevator shaft and new stairway and sandblasting the building.
“I can’t believe how much of the floor they took out. It was the worst spot,” said Lower about the future stairwell under construction. “It seems bigger with it cleared out. I never came in here since they cleared it out.”
Other work that has been done includes removing resident bats and repairs to the floor. Contractors are currently focusing on internal work, but come spring, they will begin masonry work and other exterior projects.
“At the end of summer, we should be done,” Miller said. “Next summer, this is going to be amazing.”
The plan is to have the bottom two floors available for Amish shops, and for the third floor to be available for special events.
The first occupants will be a local Amish consignment-based furniture store. Miller hopes to have Amish crafts and organic produce available in the new marketplace, which he envisions as “the Shipshewana of the north.”
“You and I can go and buy whatever we want in Grand Rapids, so if we’re going to do something, it has to be different,” Miller noted. “This will be a theme that is not replicated.”
Lower said the amount of progress being made reminded him of when he was village manager chasing after grants to make the vision a reality.
“It was a big coup getting the money for the elevator because up here (on the third floor) we wanted to have this as an event center,” Lower said. “To be compliant as far as for disabled people, you need an elevator because they can’t go up the stairs, so we ended up getting the elevator grant. It opens up a whole variety of possibilities for the upstairs.”
Edmore received a $90,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which required an equal match from DDA funds, for the purchase and installation of an elevator.
Edmore also received a $625,875 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which the Edmore DDA matched with $244,125. The two grants and matches from the city total a more than $1 million investment into the old factory.
“Sen. Emmons and myself worked on it, and James, who was village manager, was very instrumental in getting the grant money,” Outman said. “They called me in right off the bat to try and get support for it and work closely with MEDC and those organizations to get the ball rolling.”
Miller explained that even with the high cost there is no downside to the investment because it is done with grant money or DDA funds, which are tax increment financing (TIF) captures from tax dollars. There isn’t a tax burden to any resident.
Miller said he has seen some opposition to the renovation of the old building. He attributed the building’s rich history as the reason some are resistant.
“This was an idea to set Edmore apart, by having Shipshewana of the north,” Outman said. “We have such a huge Amish community here, and that’s a huge draw. You need a catch, and it fits this rural community.”
Outman said using the old building fit the theme they were trying to go with.
“We can’t have the same mindset we’ve always had for Edmore and succeed. We need to push our comfort zone a little bit,” Miller said. “If Edmore makes this a destination point, then everyone benefits.”