By Ken DeLaat
Mark Guzniczak of The Right Place and the Newaygo County Economic Development Office delivered an update to the Newaygo County Board of Commissioners at their regular meeting on June 14th. In it he outlined some of the initiatives undertaken and on tap to enhance the local economic and employment picture.
Mr. Guzniczak spoketo the efforts that resulted in two major investments this past year including expansion at HWI (formerly Narco) and the new Co-op facility in White Cloud and current projects referring to the relocation of a Chicago area company to this area which is projected...
...to happen later this year and another expansion project. Both involve a number of jobs paying in the $15 hr range.
Guzniczak quoted statistics from Michigan Works indicating a 3.8% unemployment rate in the county as of the end of April representing 890 residents a percentage lower than the national level, but cautioned that there still exists a labor problem.
“And that issue has to do with skilled trades,” he stated.
He expressed an ongoing concern for employers who struggle with finding qualified skilled employees and the resultant creation of the Newaygo County Manufacturers Council a group of representatives from local companies who meet several times a year..
“We’re trying to bridge the gap between our factory employers and our Career Tech Center,” he stated then referred to the Industrial Arts and Technology Trades Center opening this fall at the RCASCA building with programs designed to deliver the skills that match the needs of local employers.
Guzniczak stated he continues to get at least one call a week from people inquiring about starting a small business which he finds encouraging.
He also referred to the newly created NC Tourism Council and efforts to expand broadband technology to bring high speed internet throughout the county.
“The technology for broadband has improved since 2015, the number of providers has improved and we have a much better chance at bringing it county wide”
Commissioner Vern Willett asked if one of the companies mentioned coming to the area was the marijuana growing facility.
Guzniczak stated it was adding “I know it’s a controversial topic. The new laws will make it very highly regulated. A statistic I find interesting is that there are over 280,000 marijuana cardholders in Michigan. Only the state of California has more.”
“It’s already here and if it brings in jobs I believe it’s up to the local jurisdictions to decide,” he continued.”Just like any other licensed and regulated industry, if the local units support it I will work with them on it.”
“Is that the group coming to Newaygo?’ asked Mr Willett
“I believe the city of Newaygo and also Merrill Township have been talking to two separate companies,” he replied
“Meijer is still on the table in Fremont correct?” asked Commissioner Phil Deur.
“Yes” said Guzniczak. “We’re in the site planning process now. That’s probably a year and a half out before shovels hit the ground.”
“Are you concerned about the workforce and their (Meijer) ability to find the volume of employees needed to staff?
“I feel that’s true for every employer in the county but, yes without a doubt”
Deur also asked about the Bio Digester set to open in the coming days. Mr. Guzniczak reported the management of the facility has been contracted to a Wisconsin firm.
“When the facility was closed there was no preparation it was ‘turn the lights out and lock the door’,” he stated. “The group had spent the last few months completely redoing the facility. It will mean about 25 jobs and will begin producing energy July 1st.”
In other business the board heard from 5 candidates for a seat on the Veteran’s Affairs Committee, Burton Cooper, Robert Daken, Daniel Pence, Gene Reid, and Simon Scholtens. One of the candidates will be selected to fill the open slot at the next board meeting on June 28.
The board voted to accept the Recycling Services grant from the Fremont Area Community Foundation matching the $50,000 the county has designated for continuing the service to the community.Discussion regarding ways to resolve some of the issues surrounding local recycling efforts took place among the board members.
(Ed. note: Board of Public Works Chair Dale Twing answers questions about local recycling efforts on our pulse page).
Prior to going into closed session to discuss deputy union negotiations Commissioner Willett made a motion that commissioners be responsible for paying one half of the medical insurance currently provided by the county.
The motion received no support and the board went into closed session.
The next Board of Commisioners meeting will be at 9:30am Wednesday June 28th. Meetings are held at the County Administration building in White Cloud.