by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners voted during its Wednesday, Sept. 14 Committee of the Whole meeting to increase the county’s funding for the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership (SEDP) from $25,000 to $50,000 beginning in 2018. The board also declined a motion to increase the funding to $50,000 in 2017 due to there not being room in the budget, which is mostly prepared already. The county’s investment in the SEDP was cut from $50,000 to $25,000 to begin 2010, according to SEDP President/CEO Justin Horvath.
Horvath first addressed the board Monday, Sept. 12 to ask for the increase so that the SEDP can “keep Shiawassee County’s economic rebound going.” The group, which was founded in 2002, has made significant strides in bringing new businesses into the county, having helped to create more than 3,000 net jobs since 2010, according to Horvath. He also noted that Shiawassee County’s unemployment rate has dropped from 16 percent to less than five percent during that time. Horvath and the SEDP intend to use any additional resources to attract talent and jobs to the county, and to continue to provide support to existing county businesses, while also attempting to attract new businesses to the area.
The board had nothing but good things to say about the SEDP, but could not commit to the funding increase for the upcoming calendar year. Commissioner Hartmann Aue, who has been leading the recent budget discussions with Commissioner John Plowman, said that, while the board would love to increase its contribution to the SEDP, there is simply no wiggle room in the proposed budget for next year, though the out-going commissioner did make a tongue-in-cheek suggestion of cutting commissioners’ salaries to make room. The board did discuss raising the county’s contribution by less than the proposed $25,000, but ultimately could not pull the trigger for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins in January.
“In the last couple of years the county’s State Equalized Value (SEV) has bumped up a little bit, which has given us a little more tax revenue to put into our budget,” Plowman said Wednesday. “And a lot of that bump is a direct result of commercial endeavors in the county increasing in value with all the investment. We haven’t really built too many new houses, so most of the bump has come through the SEDP attracting businesses and investment.”
Luckily for the SEDP, which has a current budget of $300,000, 65 percent of its funding comes from local businesses, with the remaining 35 percent coming from the public sector, such as schools and the local government.