SEDP PRESIDENT/CEO Justin Horvath presented the 2016 Annual Report at the Owosso City Council meeting Monday evening. The SEDP had established an annual financial goal of $400,000, based on a new strategic plan, in order to provide further economic opportunity and growth to the area.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
“We are an agency that has been able to help increase the pie,” stated SEDP President/CEO Justin Horvath at the Owosso City Council meeting on Monday, June 19. “We’re the group to provide more opportunity out there, bring more business in, increase the tax base, increase the number of jobs here, to help with housing development, downtown development, to be able to grow all of that so you have more resources with which to work in the city of Owosso.”
Horvath was making a prelusion regarding the future growth of the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership (SEDP) to the council. He shared that SEDP has had a great partnership with the city of Owosso for 15 years, with city funding being fairly constant. The city currently funds SEDP over $31,000 annually, with 65 percent of SEDP’s total $300,000 annual budget coming from the private sector, and 35 percent coming from the public sector. However, with a new, forward-thinking, strategic plan underway, SEDP is facing a need to increase monetary resources for its program. “And so what we’re doing is reaching out to our business partners, reaching out to our government partners, and talking about an opportunity to increase financial contribution,” said Horvath.
The new financial goal is set at $400,000 per year. SEDP currently has pledges reaching the $355,000 per year mark, having recently seen increases from many area supporters.
“We want to do more,” shared Horvath, discussing plans to increase school/student readiness, talent recruitment, real estate development, marketing, and more, as he outlined the 2016 SEDP Annual Report.
Council member Burton Fox did bring up concerns regarding an “aging community” and his perception that Owosso is mostly landlocked for industrial expansion. He compared the city of Owosso to the I-69 Trade Corridor where industrial land is still readily available, and he mentioned the mystery steel operation currently underway in Vernon Township.
Horvath responded that SEDP is actively engaged with the I-69 communities, but the majority of their activity is still in Owosso, briefly talking about Second Chance Wood’s recent return to the city. He expressed his belief that there is still “a lot of opportunity to grow in the city of Owosso.”
Under items of business, the motion was carried to consider authorizing an annual commitment to SEDP with 2018 being the target since the budget for 2017 has already been passed.
On a side note, Owosso resident Eddie Urban, also expressed his concern over a rumor about the Vernon Township industrial proposal being a possible internment camp. Horvath clarified that this is absolutely not accurate.
Public hearings from RWI’s Lisa Cantu and Tri-Mer CFO Charlene Hebekeuser led to both companies receiving 12-year tax abatements on the respective McMillan Street properties. Hebekeuser shared that Tri-Mer currently employs 80 people, and plans on adding 20 more in the next two years with its expansion.
Also under Items of Business, another council discussion came into play regarding the water and sewer rates, which are set to increase by an average of 6.3 percent in the 2017-18 fiscal year.
“I wish we didn’t have to do this,” sympathized council member Lori Bailey. “I just know people that are living right at their (financial) edge.”
Public Utilities Director Glenn Chinavare explained that it is a “hard pill to swallow,” but with rates having been frozen over recent years due to the recession and the state of the economy, the increase has become prudently necessary. The ongoing plan has been to replace water mains as road construction is occurring to prevent having to go back and do so at a future date, and so avoiding further expenditures. The water and sewer rates item was approved.
Also adopted was the street improvement bonding resolution not to exceed $4.9 million in the effort to continue with local road construction.
The last item regarding selecting a council goal-setting facilitator was temporarily tabled.
Additionally, Horvath announced at the SEDP annual meeting on Thursday, June 22 that the SEDP did indeed meet its fundraising goal, with commitments now totaling $404,386 annually. The organization added 46 new investors during its recent fundraising campaign, to bring its total number of investors to 166 private and public entities.