Group Wants One Muskegon

September 6, 2005
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MUSKEGON — The Muskegon area, which has been dabbling in bringing communities together to work for the economic good of the region for more than 20 years, has a new group that hopes to achieve that goal.

One Muskegon is the newest reincarnation of community leaders who want to promote Muskegon as a county that works together to improve economic conditions. After a preliminary meeting in June, the group has established a steering committee that is in the process of presenting goals to the larger group of government, business and community leaders.

Gary Ostrom, One Muskegon co-chairman and publisher of The Muskegon Chronicle, said the new organization, like “New Muskegon,” its predecessor from the 1980s in which he also was involved, is driven by an economic downturn.

“Now we have an opportunity to take a fresh look at this and take it another step,” he said.

Ostrom said that although the goal is to work together as a county, it is not political consolidation.

“We’re not attempting to get cities and townships to merge or go into a one-county government,” he said. “Our goal is to make the townships and the cities work together as one, to look as if we’re one, to present a unified face to people who want to move here, bring businesses here and to make economic investments in the area. We want to look consistent and be supportive and have similar rules and zoning, so it makes it easier for people to deal with us.”

Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce, said it is important to consider the business community and how to better facilitate economic growth.

“Businesses do not see government boundaries when they are trying to develop their business,” she said. “In order to compete economically in a global economy, we have to work as a region.”

Chris McGuigan, president of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County and One Muskegon steering committee member, said one focus of the group is downtown Muskegon.

“The downtown is really the whole community’s downtown, but it is located and therefore controlled by just one municipality that by itself struggles to have the resources to support this downtown,” she said. “We saw that a fairer system for funding downtown, for making decisions about the downtown, would make sense.”

McGuigan said two important issues the group will take on are a countywide land-use plan and a fair way to share revenue.

“They’re big issues and no one else is working on them,” she said. “One Muskegon has to work on them.”

The steering committee developed a list of long-term and short-term goals in August.

Nancy Crandall, mayor of Norton Shores and co-chair of One Muskegon, said of the two tiers, the short-term goals are more “nuts and bolts” and may be able to be taken care of right away, while the long-term goals are based more on policy and decision-making.

“We want to not lose sight of the overall goal, which is (to determine) what makes most sense for the county,” she said.

Crandall said she is encouraged by the people’s enthusiasm and their willingness to attend meetings and be a part of the organization.

“We have about 45 people, and as news about this is circulating around the community, I’m finding that more and more people want to be involved,” she said. “We’re expanding to include anybody that would like to be involved.”

As the group organizes, Crandall said the process will be ongoing.

“We don’t know at this point where this is going to end, but we’re all hopeful that it will be a positive exercise for us and that we will come out with some positive results,” she said.   

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