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After $1B invested in St. Clair County in 2019, officials aim to grow

Over $1 billion was invested in St. Clair County in 2019, and county officials are working to keep that momentum going.

The Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County held a luncheon this week with stakeholders, economic partners, community leaders and keynote speaker Amanda McClanahan, Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s chief operating officer.

The region’s economic success for 2019 was celebrated, but EDA leaders and McClanahan also talked about how the county and state will continue working to grow in the future.

How St. Clair County ended 2019 

Donna Russell-Kuhr, former EDA president, said she was happy to report that the area overachieved for the past five years during the 2015 to 2019 strategic plan.

There were two really big accomplishments in 2019, one of which was the county population grew for the first time since 2005.

“That was not supposed to happen,” Russell-Kuhr said. “But it was an indicator that we were doing something correctly in St. Clair County.”

Second, the area led Michigan in the net migration of bringing college graduates back to their hometown on a per capita basis, Russell-Kuhr said.

“Which was a huge win, getting that talent back in our area,” she said.

In 2019, the local economy benefited from 526 news jobs, 282 housing starts and investments of more than $1 billion, according to the EDA website.

According to EDA promotional materials, some of the investments include the following projects:

The EDA website states that during the EDA’s five-year strategic plan for 2014 to 2019, nearly 3,000 jobs were created.

What the plan is for the county moving forward 

EDA CEO Dan Casey said the area is facing a future demographic shift, with the transition of the baby boomers out of the workforce and younger people not having babies.

“Demographic projections are forecasting a decline in the county’s population out to 2045,” Casey and EDA President Edward Brooks said in a written statement. “The solution is to attract more families to our communities.”

Casey said at the luncheon that it’s no secret the area needs more people and there’s a constraint on the workforce, and that the lack of a workforce “will probably get worse.”

“So how do we offset this trend?” he asked.

Casey said the area has to recruit more and do more construction. There’s currently not enough housing or different types of housing.

So, the EDA’s new three-year strategic plan for 2020 to 2022 will focus on the following, according to information presented at the luncheon:

The EDA also identified four strategic growth industries and its target sectors will be advanced manufacturing, mobility and automotive, logistics and transportation, and power generation and distribution

Casey said there are changes coming that the area needs to be prepared for, which include continued automation and increased artificial intelligence.

He said schools need to develop and modify curriculum to make sure students are learning those skills.

“’Cause guess what? In five years it’s here,” he said, and they need to be ready.

Statewide growth and future plan 

On a statewide level, McClanahan said the MEDC had a “tremendously successful year.”

MEDC finished 2019 with the creation of almost 50,000 new jobs and $9.3 million private investments, including for the first time ever 11,000 new automotive jobs in Michigan, she said.

However, in Michigan today, 43 percent of households live below the federal poverty line. Michigan is also 49th in the country in terms of resilience and growth, only beating Indiana, and is “incredibly exposed to recession risk,” McClanahan said.

She said with its partnerships, the MEDC needs to move the state ahead in the next five years.

According to its 5-year strategic plan, the MEDC’s mission is to achieve long-term economic prosperity for Michiganders by investing in communities, enabling the growth of good jobs and promoting Michigan’s strong image worldwide.

Its strategic focus areas include attracting, retaining and supporting businesses; fostering high-wage skills growth; developing attractive places; and catalyzing entrepreneurship and marketing the state.

McClanahan said the MEDC wants to look at sustaining long-term growth and when it invests in geographically disadvantaged areas, it can generate a higher return on investment.

“Michigan is a place where people want to live, work and play,” McClanahan said. “And our cost of living is competitive, our quality of life makes a difference.”


Posted By: Times Herald on February 13, 2020.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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