by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor

The Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership (SEDP) was created in 2002, at a time when many smaller counties were eliminating county-managed economic development departments due to budget constraints. The SEDP stepped in to fill the void, and the private, nonprofit organization has teamed with local business owners, schools, and municipalities in an effort to breathe life into a stagnant Shiawassee County economy. The organization has played a lead role in the recruitment of new businesses, while also working with existing business owners to grow their operations.

The SEDP partners with the Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce (SRCC) and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to form a one-stop shop for businesses at the downtown Owosso office. The SRCC handles most local business needs, the SBDC provides consulting services and business plan development for business start-ups, and the SEDP focuses primarily on bringing new businesses into the county, while also helping existing businesses sustain and grow. Horvath and SEDP Vice President Brent Jones have established relationships with economic development organizations all over the country, which gives them an opportunity to market Shiawassee County to businesses looking for a home. They sell Shiawassee County to potential new businesses by emphasizing the county’s geographic location and rebounding economy; they analyze the local real estate market to find the best site/building for prospective businesses; and they also use their resources to find workers, financiers, and contractors for new businesses after the decision to relocate in Shiawassee County has been made. The overall idea of the SEDP, as described by Horvath, is to “fill the bucket,” which means bringing in businesses that sell their products outside of Shiawassee County and bring the profits back in, therefore keeping more money in the local economy, or “bucket.”

The SEDP’s expected budget for 2017 is roughly $300,000, which comes from a number of sources. The county contributes $25,000 per year, which is part of the approximately 35 percent of the SEDP budget that comes from public entities like schools and municipalities. The SEDP currently has commitments from all five Shiawassee County cities – Corunna, Owosso, Durand, Laingsburg, and Perry – at a rate of $2 per resident annually, the group draws $1 per resident from 10 of the 16 townships in the county, and has commitments from three villages and the Perry DDA. The remaining 65 percent of the SEDP budget comes from commitments from private businesses, with investments from more than 100 Shiawassee County investors.

The increase in new businesses in Shiawassee County, especially in the industrial field, has led to a shortage of skilled homegrown workers, which is a problem the SEDP is trying to correct. Horvath points out that there are several wonderful educational facilities in Shiawassee County that prepare students for careers in the skilled trades, but not enough people are taking advantage of the opportunities. There are actually more skilled trade positions in the county than there are workers to fill them, Horvath reports. The SEDP is working with high schools across the county to help the school districts better prepare students for those jobs by supporting programs that give students access to real world work experience. Horvath said the SEDP is also trying to spread the word across mid-Michigan that Shiawassee County, or “the comeback county in the comeback state,” as Horvath says it, is the place to come to find work in the skilled trades.

The SRCC and the rest of county’s economic development team recently celebrated the acquisition of a $1.5 million Michigan Economic Development Corporation grant to remodel and repurpose the Armory building in Owosso. The building will be transformed into a small business development center, where potential business owners will have access to the services of the SRCC, the SEDP, and the SBDC, as well as financing options and work space. Horvath also announced recently the upcoming “Catapult Your Craft Food & Beverage Business Competition,” which is a collaborative event organized by the SRCC, SEDP, SBDC, the I-69 Thumb Region. The event will give local craft food and beverage producers a chance to showcase their products and solidify their business plans, while also earning some money in the process. The winner of the Shiawassee County competition will receive $5,000 and the second place finisher will be awarded $1,000. The winners will then advance to the regional competition with a shot at the $5,000 grand prize, which will be awarded to the person with the best business plan and product picked from the pool of contestants from Shiawassee, Genesee, Tuscola, Sanilac, Lapeer, St. Clair, and Huron counties.

The Purpose of SEDP in Shiawassee County was last modified: October 10th, 2016 by Karen Elford