Bay County Community Planning for Economic Diversity
Bay County, MI - Bay County Michigan is on the nation’s list of Coal Impacted Communities due to the looming economic hardship from reduced coal fired energy generation and Consumers Energy phased closure of their Karn Weadock plant. Bay County will be impacted from the plant closure by the loss of highly skilled jobs and the from loss of tax revenue that funds critical public services such as public safety and roads, but planning is underway now to explore options for on-going economic success. Bay County Executive Jim Barcia explains “We’ve got such great community assets in Bay County, bountiful agriculture, low crime rate, the Great Lakes for fishing, recreation and tourism. These all provide for an exceptional quality of life here, but we are not immune to national trends. The reduction in the use of fossil fuels for energy production has hit us hard and the Consumer’s Energy plant closing will have impacts. That’s why it is so important that we’ve already started planning to try and offset those impacts through diversification of the economy wherever we can.”
Working with a coalition of public and private partners including Bay County, Essexville, Bangor Township, Bay Future, Inc., Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, East Michigan Council of Governments (EMCOG), Essexville-Hampton Schools, Just Transition Fund and Consumers Energy, Hampton Township led the effort to secure federal grant funding needed to develop an Economic Recovery and Development Strategy. “Going through the application process for the federal Economic Development Administration (US EDA) grant was pretty intimidating, as the grant funding is awarded on a competitive basis nationwide”, said Terri Close, Hampton Township Supervisor, “ but once we described the looming fiscal impacts to our community, we found a lot of support by many different partners who recognized that through no fault of ours (Hampton Township) we will be facing some serious reductions in tax revenue which in turn impacts the services we provide to our residents and our standard of living.” As the Karn Weadock plant continues to close down, the Township has seen revenue decline and has taken hard steps to adjust in order to keep a balanced budget. Barcia added “There’s no one single best approach to attracting new business and new jobs, but local partners working together is essential for making community progress.”
Community Economic Development experts were selected through a competitive qualifications based selection process and they began the process to evaluate Hampton Township’s assets and strengths and weaknesses to attract new industries that complement the rural agricultural character and develop a Strategy with recommendations to advance towards success. Key recommendations include outreach to existing industry in Hampton Township to better understand their needs and any barriers to their growth, developing a ‘Welcome Packet’ to prospective developers and investors to both showcase Hampton Township’s assets and identify a clear regulatory and approval process for industry. “Having a shared, common vision for attracting investment into our community was the highest priority’, said Terri Close, Hampton Township Supervisor. “We developed a Community Survey with broad distribution on multiple online platforms and we included it in water bills to ensure we heard directly from the residents. We had well over 630 responses, which is a pretty amazing participation rate and demonstrates that residents are involved and interested” Close said.
The Draft Strategy for Economic Success is currently being finalized and will be presented through a virtual format to the Hampton Township Board of Trustees at their August 10th meeting at 7:00 p.m.
For more information, please contact Terri Close, Hampton Township Supervisor at 989-893-7541 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Jim Barcia at 989-895-4137 or email BarciaJ@baycounty.net.