Kent Muskegon form joint Next Michigan Development Corp

August 27, 2012
| By Pete Daly |
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Seven municipalities in Muskegon and Kent counties have organized under new state legislation to set up the fifth and final Next Michigan Development Corp. in the state, according to an announcement from The Right Place, Muskegon Area First and Michigan Economic Development Corp.

To be known as the West Michigan Economic Partnership, the new NMDC is being developed as a partnership including the Kent County municipalities of Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Wyoming and Cascade Township, plus the city of Muskegon in Muskegon County. The two counties themselves are also members of the partnership, as are two economic development organizations in those counties: The Right Place and Muskegon Area First. Gerald R. Ford International Airport is also a member of the partnership.

The Right Place and Muskegon Area First began organizing the West Michigan Economic Partnership in February to market and help spur development of strategic real estate serviced by two or more modes of transportation infrastructure in Muskegon and Kent counties. The participating communities and eligible companies may also be able to access additional property and investment incentives under the new partnership.

“The increased level of intergovernmental collaboration between counties and municipalities in West Michigan is the first of its kind in West Michigan,” said Ed Garner, president and CEO of the Muskegon Area First economic development agency. “This new partnership between Muskegon and Kent counties will open new doors for investment, jobs and growth throughout the region.”

“As one of only five sanctioned NMDCs allowed under the current legislation, these seven (local governmental units) now have a unique set of marketing and incentive tools to support new investment and the creation of jobs in their communities,” said Rick Chapla, vice president of Business Development at The Right Place. “Strategic transportation areas in West Michigan, such as Muskegon’s deep-water port and Wyoming’s Site36 location, will be prime areas of focus.”

Site36 is the new marketing name given to the 92-acre parcel on 36th Street that contained one of the major General Motors stamping plants in West Michigan, which ceased production in 2009 as GM was entering bankruptcy. Site36 is a public/private partnership involving the city of Wyoming (which adamantly wants it reused by industry); the developer, Lormax Stern of West Bloomfield; and the economic developer, which is The Right Place.

Site36 has direct access to Class A commercial rail service and immediate access to U.S. 131 — transportation elements that are an essential requirement of the Next Michigan legislative package signed into law by former Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm during the final days of her term in December 2010.

The Next Michigan legislation allows up to five regional Next Michigan Development corporations. According to the state announcement when it was enacted, the Next Michigan organizations will be able to offer economic incentives to businesses that rely on multimodal commerce, to locate near major transportation facilities including airports. Nine communities around Detroit Metro and Willow Run airports had already signed an agreement by the time the legislation was enacted, to set up the Aerotropolis Development Corp.

An NMDC can establish up to 12 Renaissance Zones, based on the number of participants in the interlocal agreement, and each zone may be up to 200 acres in size. The maximum number of eligible businesses that can qualify for those new Renaissance Zone benefits statewide is 25.

According to The Right Place, the Next Michigan Development Act creates a new economic development tool “to advance the marketing and development of certain kinds of real estate served by two or more modes of transportation.”

The creation of a separate legal and administrative entity is formed by agreement between two or more local governmental units, at least one of which must be a county.

Once an interlocal agreement is established, the group can apply to the board of the Michigan Strategic Fund for designation as an NMDC. The Kent/Muskegon partnership has done that and has just received the go-ahead from the MSF.

The new West Michigan Economic Partnership is now the fifth and thus final NMDC to be established.

According to The Right Place, over the next several weeks, each participating entity in the new West Michigan Economic Partnership will appoint a representative and an alternate to serve on the newly created board. Regular monthly meetings will then be held to support and manage ongoing efforts. Once seated, the board’s next step will be to establish a funding model and begin identifying strategic multi-modal properties within the partnership’s geographic region.

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