The Future of Economic Development in Monroe County
The following article was written by Tim Lake and published in the December 17 edition of the Monroe News.
REPRINTED from Monroe News
In late 2015, a group of Monroe County leaders gathered to consider the effects on Monroe County and the region from a new international crossing between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.
They quickly understood the potential for positive economic impact in the region, but the leadership group also realized if Monroe County and its citizens were to benefit, we needed a strategy and vision. As a result, the leadership of both public and private organizations jointly commissioned the I-75 Corridor Study.
Three key questions emerged for Monroe County as the study unfolded: What are the current economic conditions? What industries do we need to attract in order to remain economically competitive? What steps do we need to take to ensure economic competitiveness?
The I-75 Corridor Study intended to identify practical and achievable objectives versus unattainable or unrealistic goals to become our strategic economic development plan. The study highlighted Monroe’s overall economic position and available opportunities. It showed conditions, in Monroe, reflect Michigan as a whole, and we possess similar opportunities to create an environment for growth and prosperity.
The data illustrated positive business and employment growth trends the county can leverage to realize economic development impacts. In short, it noted Monroe should pursue sectors with high probabilities of locating here.
We would not chase Silicon Valley startups; rather, businesses and sectors
that align with our assets and advantages where there is a good match. As a result, the Monroe County Link Plan was created as a strategic action plan that public organizations and private sector partners working together could implement.
The Monroe County Link Plan’s main goal is to create an environment for economic growth and stability. The Plan has six pillars of activity:
• Prepare for Investment
• Quality of Life and Tourism
• Image and Brand
• Talent Development
• Grow Strategically
• Grow the Logistics
Corridor These efforts are now underway with a team of over 60 private and public leaders working collaboratively within the six pillars. Each pillar is led by a community leader with deep subject matter expertise.
The team members all have a passion for the volunteer work they are doing to create an environment that will foster economic growth throughout the county and region. This year marks the end of our second year of the Link Plan, and we have seen much success. Each pillar team has mission and visions specific to their respective objectives. All are engaged in actions that are meant to move their visions forward.
For example, the Image and Brand pillar team is working on an overarching brand for the county, while ensuring that each community’s identity is not lost or overshadowed. Additionally, they have committed to “cleaning up” exits 15 (Dixie Hwy) and 18 (Nadeau Road) on I-75. Enhanced “curb appeal” first for our residents and then for visitors who use these ramps will provide long-lasting returns.
The Talent Development pillar is busy working on a new certified manufacturing technician program. This program will provide entry level certification for our high school students
considering careers in manufacturing. It will provide the gateway to further in-demand skilled trades that are sorely needed in our manufacturing sector. For further value, training is often paid by the employer.
The Quality of Life and Tourism team is working on a robust set of objectives, including our housing stock and determining the ideal mix which encourages communities to invest in amenities that persuade young families to live in our county, as well as working with the Monroe County Convention and Tourism Bureau to make Monroe County a destination stop rather than a pass through to another community. While Monroe County is located on Michigan’s Main Street (I-75), it is so much more than a Gateway to Michigan.
In Part 2, we will detail the work of our remaining pillar teams and consider the important role that industrial development plays in the growth and success of a community. The complete plan can be found online at www. MonroeCountyLink.com.
Tim Lake is president and CEO of the Monroe County Business and Development Corp. This is part 1 of a 4-part series that will be published in the upcoming weeks.