Monroe County officials network on economic growth ideas  

As of Friday, July 24, 2015, 11:48 a.m.


Roughly 120 elected officials from Monroe municipalities and representatives from local organizations gathered Wednesday night for a first-of-its kind collaborative meeting.

The meeting, which took place on the fourth floor of the main Monroe Bank & Trust building on First St., was born out of Dundee Village Manager David Uhl’s focus on collaboration between the village of Dundee and the township.

Recognizing that the two share a symbiotic link, he advocated for a joint meeting. But when Tim Lake, president and chief executive officer of the Monroe County Business Development Corp., and others heard about the meeting, Mr. Uhl said, they saw some potential and promoted the meeting to the entire county.

In alignment with his professed focus on bringing business and industry to Dundee, Mr. Uhl said he believes the various Monroe municipalities need to start working closely together in order to take advantage of Monroe’s opportunities for economic development.

He said Monroe’s location between Toledo, Detroit and Ann Arbor; its access to major highways like I-75, I-275, and US-23, and its access to Lake Erie and River Raisin make it extremely attractive to potential developers. He said the county municipalities just need to streamline their zoning procedures to make working in Monroe as easy as possible.

“If you make things happen for the businesses, they want to make things work with and for you,” Mr. Uhl said. “So the goal of all of this collaboration is to be able to say, ‘Here we are. We’re Monroe. We have these resources. Come work with us.’ ” Mr. Lake said Monroe already is moving forward in terms of collaboration with an agreement between the road commission and drain commission to meet jointly with developers to expedite processes of economic growth, rather than have them bounce back and forth to make decisions.

The meeting centered on an educational keynote presentation by attorney Frederick Lucas and community planner Richard Carlisle, president of Carlisle- Wortman Associates. The two educated attendees on the importance of an up-to-date and intentional master plan for all communities as a framework for establishing community direction and opportunities.

“The master plan helps you and your constituents identify what is important to your community, why those issues are important and what you need to do about them,” Mr. Carlisle told listeners.

Through a master plan, the two explained, communities can decide not only what they want for their community and what areas could provide economic opportunities for the community and developers alike, but how to streamline their zoning procedures so as to expedite that growth as much as possible when developers actually come knocking while minimizing the risks of various lawsuits.

After the lecture, attendees were given a walkthrough of the most recently revised edition of the Developer’s Streamlining Guide for Monroe County, a one-stop-shop document, according to Mr. Lake, that collects and communicates the information regarding zoning and community contacts to potential developers.

Attendees were asked to pledge their community’s support in helping keep the document accurate and up-to-date.

Amy Malmer, manager of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, said the meeting provided an excellent background for all the officials, from networking to language.

“For collaboration to take place, you need common information and time to simply talk to and get to know each other and your common interests,” Mrs. Malmer said.

Mr. Lake said the next meeting of this kind, “What to Do When Opportunity Knocks” will be held on Oct. 16 in the Assembly Room at Monroe Bank & Trust.