U.S. Department Of Commerce Invests $2.5 Million In Local Universities And Chamber To Aid Construction And Brownfield Redevelopment Projects

FLINT, Mich. – Kettering University President Dr. Robert K. McMahan and U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams today announced that three organizations in the city of Flint will receive Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants totaling $2.5 million to construct a Mobility Research Center at Kettering University; establish a University Center for Community and Economic Development at the University of Michigan-Flint; and create a brownfield redevelopment accelerator for the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.  

“Ensuring that our nation’s communities have the vital, infrastructure and tools needed to support economic growth is a top priority for the Economic Development Administration,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary Williams. “Today’s investments support Flint’s initiatives to grow the local economy and provide employment opportunities for the local workforce which helps strengthen the country’s global competiveness.”

The investments announced today are:

  • Kettering University

The $1.9 million EDA investment will support Phase II of Kettering University’s GM Mobility Research Center, a 19-acre state-of-the-art automotive research facility and testing grounds. Phase II consists of a low speed road course and garage facility. The purpose of the investment builds on Kettering University’s automotive legacy of supporting, developing and validating automotive related technologies. The purpose of the project is to provide an environment for the university and the automotive industry to collaborate on automotive advancements. The project will transform an existing brownfield site, promote environmentally-sustainable development, support U.S. industry in innovation and global competitiveness, leverage public and private funding, and economically strengthen an underserved and distressed local community. The project will also improve Kettering University’s already highly recognized experientially based engineering programs which support the area’s automobile industry.

“This unique facility – the only one of its kind on a university campus in the country – puts Kettering and Flint at the forefront of research and development in mobility and autonomous vehicle systems, as well as associated safety and other related technologies,” said Dr. Robert K. McMahan, Kettering University President. “This facility will create learning opportunities for students that are unmatched anywhere while also enhancing opportunities for faculty research in collaboration with industry. As importantly, though, it will also allow the University – and the city of Flint – to attract and retain new industry partners that will develop and manufacture these new products and technologies. We are grateful for the support from the EDA to allow us to construct phase two of this incredible facility.”

  • University of Michigan-Flint

The University of Michigan-Flint received a highly-competitive grant of $400,000 during five years to establish a University Center for Community and Economic Development. The EDA-funded University Center will provide entrepreneurship and innovation support in the seven-county region (Genesee, Shiawassee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Huron, Sanilac and Tuscola counties). The project includes funding for a regional asset mapping initiative — which will evaluate the impact of regional economic development efforts and conduct an annual regional business climate survey. A dedicated EDA University Center Research Fund also will support applied UM-Flint faculty and student research around economic and business development needs. UM-Flint students also will create a website to facilitate access to regional economic data, research findings, and create an interactive map.

“Our faculty and student researchers will provide important insights our region needs to make the most of its economic development work,” UM-Flint Chancellor Susan E. Borrego said. “The UM-Flint EDA University Center will help our region’s economic development planning and decision making — and ultimately evaluate economic development efforts to asses which were most effective. We know that the U.S. Economic Development Administration is very selective in the creation of its University Centers and we are proud to host this project on our campus.”

  • Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce

The Flint Genesee Chamber of Commerce and the Genesee Area Focus Fund in partnership with the City of Flint have requested an $197,416 Economic Adjustment Assistance grant to conduct a Feasibility Study for a business accelerator at the City of Flint’s largest Brownfield site, known locally as Buick City (Racer Trust site).   The study will provide the City and its strategic partners with critical capacity building to support the redevelopment of Buick City. The feasibility study will include three main elements, a Market Study, a Site Plan, and a Business Plan, that will determine the justification for constructing a business accelerator facility at the Buick City site.

“Brownfield sites are both a challenge and an opportunity for Flint,” said Tim Herman, CEO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber. “Apart from a perception that there are environmental and infrastructure challenges at the sites, there can be difficulties involved with identifying property price, processing site plans, and working through business licensing and legal procedures. On the other hand, brownfield sites are optimal sources of real estate on which to build modern facilities that will be attractive to site selectors and businesses looking to locate here. The EDA grant provides a critical piece of the puzzle for brownfield redevelopment in Flint.”

 About the Economic Development Administration 

The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. To learn more about EDA, visit www.eda.gov.

 About Kettering University

Kettering University is a national leader in experiential STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and Business education, integrating an intense academic curriculum with applied professional experience. Through this proven approach we inspire students to realize their potential and advance their ideas by combining theory and practice better than any institution in the world. Kettering University is dedicated to achieving the extraordinary through technological innovation, leadership and service, built on values that foster respect, integrity, creativity, collaboration and excellence in growth, global leadership, community outreach and an engaged community of stakeholders. More: www.kettering.edu.

 About University of Michigan-Flint

Founded in 1956 on a commitment to bring a quality Michigan education to Flint and the surrounding area, UM-Flint has done exactly what we set out to do. In the process, we’ve welcomed a record number of students into our classrooms, equipping them with the knowledge, experiences, and skills to make lasting contributions to the businesses, organizations, and communities they help shape. We invite you to see how our students, faculty, staff, and campus are making a real difference. More: www.umflint.edu.

 About Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce

The Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce is a premier business membership organization unlike most chambers of commerce. In addition to traditional member services, our responsibility includes serving as the lead economic development agency for Flint & Genesee, marketing tourism, youth and business training, and a Shared Services Center. More: www.flintandgenesee.org.

DTE Energy to build new electric generation capacity

Company committed to produce cleaner, reliable energy using natural gas

DETROIT, Sept. 29, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — DTE Energy today announced it will build new energy generation as part of its commitment to ensure long-term reliability and produce cleaner energy for its customers.  The new energy generated will replace a portion of the capacity from coal-fired plants DTE intends to retire by 2023.

DTE has plans to build state-of-the-art natural gas turbine plants to provide approximately 1,000 megawatts of energy, enough to power 850,000 homes, and create new jobs for Michigan residents.  The company will invest between $1-1.5 billion in these new generating assets, expected to be completed between 2021 and 2023. Based on preliminary site analysis, one project is expected to be located on existing DTE property adjacent to the Belle River power plant in China Township, Mich.

This new generation will provide long term reliability and will add to the company’s recent acquisitions of natural gas generating capacity. In 2015, the company acquired the 732 megawatt Renaissance Power Plant in Carson City and the 350 megawatt Dean Peaker Plant in East China Township to assure adequate generating capacity for DTE customers during periods of high demand for power.

Read entire store at DTE Energy here.

Yen Group, LLC -Invests $10.2 Million in Manufacturing Facility in Port Huron Industrial Park

St. Clair County, Michigan – September 21, 2016

View: Comments from U.S. Representative Candice Miller 

Yen Group, LLC –is a newly established entity that will focus on fulfilling purchase orders of engine blocks, heads and other engine components for customers that have requirements that are consistent with their business objectives, including their partner company in Indiana.  Yen Group plans to reopen a closed manufacturing facility in the city of Port Huron, investing more than $10.2 million and creating 80 jobs. As a result of the expansion, the project has been awarded a $400,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. Michigan was chosen over the partner site in Indiana. The city of Port Huron has offered to host a job fair in support of the project. Individuals interested in careers with Yen Group should email careers@yengroup.us.

“We are pleased to announce the launch of Yen Group, LLC in Port Huron, Michigan.  Our goal is simple, to restore the operations that once thrived in this facility and create new job growth for the community.  Our employees at Yen Group are our most important assets and we look forward to creating a world class manufacturing foundation with them.  Our initiative to retain manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and the technical ability of the Michigan work force has driven this decision to launch in Port Huron and we look forward to a very bright future.” – David Yen, President.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced today, its approval of a $400,000 performance-based grant tied to the 80 new qualified jobs and overall project investment.  Approval of this grant was a vital component, as our region battled another U.S. target for location.  The Yen Group was also considering Indiana as a site location due to proximity to its engine remanufacturing partner site and to the company’s customers, partners and engineers.

“I met with management and employees when the announcement was made that Royal Oak Boring was closing the plant and pledged to do everything we could to get it reopened,” said City of Port Huron Mayor

Pauline Repp.  “Thanks to our partnership with the Economic Development Alliance and MEDC, today we’re excited to welcome the Yen Group to our community.”

Mike Barnes, formerly with Royal Oak Boring, has been hired as the facility’s plant manager and has played an integral role with the new company’s launch.  “My talks with the Yen family started in May 2016, as I presented possible plans to restore the operations in Port Huron and retain the core team that has worked together for decades.  It is with great pride that we have been very successful on every level thus far.  Michigan employees have the work ethic, spirit and technical ability to bounce back in any situation, and thanks to the Yen family we have done that and more.”

“EDA’s goal from the very beginning was to take care of the employees that were being displaced from Royal Oak Boring,” said Dan Casey, CEO of the Economic Development Alliance.  “We’re excited to work with Yen Group, to assist them to grow their business, and we’re thankful for their commitment to the community.”

Genesee County Recognized as Certified Connected Community

Technology Action Plan and priority goals presented

(GENESEE COUNTY, Mich. – Aug. 31, 2016) – Connect Michigan applauds the efforts of Genesee County, Michigan, for achieving certification under Connected Nation’s Connected Community Engagement Program. Today, Connect Michigan presented Genesee County’s certification and its Technology Action Plan before the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, University of Michigan-Flint representatives, Genesee County Board of Commissioners, and community stakeholders. The release of this plan follows months of extensive analysis of the community’s broadband and technology standing and understanding its technology goals for the future. The Technology Action Plan gives step-by-step action items to ensure Genesee County reaches those technology goals.

Genesee County has been working with Connect Michigan, a program of Connected Nation, on the Connected Community Engagement Program. This initiative assesses the local broadband landscape, identifies connectivity gaps, and establishes technology-driven goals and objectives to increase broadband access, adoption, and use for families, organizations, and businesses throughout the community. Genesee County joins more than 50 communities throughout the Great Lakes State that are engaged in the Connected program.

“Technology, including broadband Internet accessibility, plays a pivotal role in how businesses operate, the type of service consumers expect, how institutions provide services, and where consumers choose to live, work, and play,” said Tim Herman, CEO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce. “That’s why this distinction is so important for our region and why the Chamber has been actively involved in the certification process. It’s another important indicator to show that Flint & Genesee is open for business.”

The University of Michigan-Flint led the broadband connectivity research efforts, which assessed the community’s access to high-speed Internet. A team of university faculty and three students led the project to survey community senior centers, libraries, and other public resources as part of the certification project.

“We all know that this certification does not mean our work is done, but it does mean we’ve taken an important step forward in ensuring our community has access to functional, necessary technology,” said Susan E. Borrego, University of Michigan-Flint Chancellor. “The University of Michigan-Flint is proud to have been a partner in this project by providing research assistance — while also giving our students an opportunity to learn and deliver a meaningful service to our community.”

The Genesee County Technology Action Plan sets general, community-wide broadband connectivity goals to work toward that will support and further enhance economic development and residential quality of life. Genesee County’s top goals from the new plan include:

  • Work with broadband providers and local municipalities, especially more rural townships, to improve broadband access
  • Pursue business and community development opportunities by marketing the area’s significant broadband infrastructure
  • Expand community literacy programs to include digital literacy training
  • Form a technology consortium to provide shared technology services for community nonprofit organizations
  • Assess the need for additional public computer centers
  • Establish an entrepreneurial and technology hub to support the community
  • Develop an online interactive map of community resources

The plan encompasses support for future broadband programs that will ensure the community continues to advance its technology standing in the digital economy. Other recommended action items include Internet safety classes, a broadband training program for small- and medium-sized businesses, creating local jobs through teleworking opportunities, and promoting telemedicine initiatives in remote areas.

“Our assessment results show that Genesee County has extensive broadband infrastructure already in place, with fiber optic cable and multiple broadband providers in many areas of the county,” said Eric Frederick, Executive Director of Connect Michigan and Vice President of Community Affairs for Connected Nation. “This provides a solid foundation to expand broadband to underserved areas of the county. Additionally, robust infrastructure allows for future technology growth and a quick launch for programs to fuel improved digital literacy, small business technology use, and entrepreneurial centers. The digital economy opens innumerable opportunities for families, communities, and businesses.”

For questions about the Connected Community Engagement Program in Michigan, please contact info@connectmi.org.

I-69 Thumb Region Agri-Tourism Directory Makes Buying Local Easy

(FLINT, Mich. – Sept. 1, 2016) Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer and the start of the harvest season, otherwise known as fall. As the temperature begin to cool and the air turns crisp, our tastes in outdoor fun and food tend to take on a different flavor, too.

To help plan your day trip or weekend excursion, check out the online I-69 Thumb Region’s Agri-Tourism Directory.

Covering seven counties in eastern Michigan (Shiawassee, Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron and Tuscola), the I-69 Thumb Region offers a range of agricultural richness. Moreover, the agri-tourism directory contains a smorgasbord of venues, including breweries and wineries, farms, farmers’ markets, meat processors and packing houses, orchards and specialty shops.

It is also a resource for agri-businesses in the region to market themselves, as part of the “farm-to-table” movement, which promotes organic food, craft drinks and locally sourced products.

“This directory is for residents and agri-businesses,” said Janice Karcher, Vice President of Economic Development at the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce. “Residents can use the directory to locate local resources and plan trips. Businesses can use it as an opportunity to explain what they do and what visitors can expect at their businesses.”

There are approximately 150 businesses listed across the seven counties. In addition, the guide features seven categories of businesses, which allows users to navigate easily through the site to discover new products and businesses. Users may sort businesses by type and highlight locations by county.

There are nearly 50 sites in Flint & Genesee alone.

So shop locally grown produce at one of the region’s many farmers’ markets. Plan a day of berry picking at one of the orchards or farms. Tour the region’s wineries and breweries, and find your favorite local craft beverage right around the corner.

It’s all right here.

Businesses in interested in joining the agri-tourism directory should contact the I-69 Thumb Region at 810.766.6540 or dcompton@co.genesee.mi.us.

The I-69 Thumb Region is a partnership of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership, Lapeer Development Corporation, Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County, Sanilac & Huron County Economic Development Corporation and Tuscola County Economic Development Corporation.

Cellar Brewing secures $250K in state support for brewery relocation project in Sparta

SPARTA — A project to move a microbrewery from the outskirts of Sparta to the heart of the village downtown got a shot in the arm yesterday thanks to a state grant.

Cellar Brewing Co. started soliciting investors more than a year ago to support its plans to redevelop the two buildings that housed the former Momber’s HomeTown Pharmacy at 133 Division St. in Sparta, about a half-mile west of the brewery’s current location on the same road.

This week, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved a $250,000 performance-based Community Revitalization Program grant to support the project, which the agency said would bring “significant foot traffic and additional economic activity to the downtown,” according to a statement.

Read entire story here at MiBiz.

2016 Wage and Benefit Survey Reveals Sustained Optimism in the Region

I-69 Thumb Region Release Wage and Benefit Biennial Survey Results

(Flint, Mich. – July 29, 2016) The 2016 I-69 Thumb Region’s Wage and Benefit Survey has found that employers in the region remain bullish on hiring for the current year. The biennial report also shows the threat of layoffs remain low among companies that responded to the survey.

The Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce along with economic development partners in the I-69 Thumb Region today released the results of its biennial survey, which is conducted in collaboration with the University of Michigan-Flint.

Survey findings show that more than 92.3 percent of companies surveyed say they expect to add new jobs in 2016, up by more than 6 percentage points from 2014. In addition, nearly 97 percent of companies participating in the survey said they did not expect layoffs this year compared to 93 percent two years ago.

In Genesee County, 90.5 percent of respondents anticipate hiring this year, up from 88 percent in 2014. Meanwhile, 90.5 percent of the Genesee County respondents do not expect layoffs in 2016 year versus 89 percent two years ago. (Download Infographic)

“This year’s results are especially encouraging here in Genesee County,” said Tim Herman, CEO, Flint & Genesee Chamber. “Even though the Flint water crisis has presented our area with some unique challenges, we are continuing to make progress overall as a community. Our revitalization strategy hinges on job growth, and this report is an important tool for talent recruitment and business development.”

The survey, conducted in the spring of 2016, is designed to gain insights on wage and benefit practices at companies located in the seven-county I-69 Thumb Region. It provides data for area firms to determine their competitiveness as it relates to wages and benefits.

Benefit data for the Thumb Region show that 91.6 percent of participating employers offer health insurance to full-time employees, which is above the 82 percent of employers nationally, according to 2015 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data – the most current available. In Genesee County, 91 percent of respondents offer health insurance to full-time employees.

Meanwhile, 80.4 percent of Thumb Region respondents said they offer a retirement plan for full-time employees, with 90.5 percent of Genesee County employers offering such plans. The national average is 81 percent, according to 2015 BLS data.

Nearly 400 companies in the I-69 Thumb Region – encompassing Genesee, Shiawassee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Tuscola and Huron counties – were invited to complete the survey. The manufacturing sector represented 76 percent of the respondents this year compared to 62.5 percent in 2014 – the year the survey was launched.

Paula Nas, Interim Director of Outreach and Lecturer of Economics for the University of Michigan-Flint, said the survey seeks to provide companies, local economic development officials and human resource managers with a clear understanding of the compensation and benefit structure in key industries within the region.

Among the survey objectives are:

  • To provide companies with a systematic means for budgeting and comparing salary expenditures
  • To attract and retain personnel
  • To market competitive wage rates that can attract new investment to the region
  • To produce information that advises economic development strategies and programs

“We’re pleased to again have the opportunity to apply the university’s resources to the task of supporting economic development in the region,” said Nas. “The data will help inform students and educators about the hiring needs of employers and the skills and education that are in demand.”

For additional information about the 2016 I-69 Thumb Region Wage and Benefits Survey, contact Janice Karcher, Vice President-Economic Development, Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, jkarcher@flintandgenesee.org or 810.600.1429.

Media contacts:                                   Elaine Redd                                              or             Bob Campbell

Flint & Genesee Chamber                                       Flint & Genesee Chamber

(810) 600-1418                                                         (810) 600-1421

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About the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce

Serving the community for over 100 years, the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce is a premier business membership organization unlike most chambers of commerce.  In addition to traditional member services, our responsibility includes serving as the lead economic development agency for Flint & Genesee, marketing tourism, youth and business training, and a Shared Services Center. For more information, visit www.flintandgenesee.org.  Check us out on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.