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St. Clair County saw over $95M invested, over 500 jobs created in 2020

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Clair County continued to see economic growth in 2020 with more than $95 million invested and over 500 jobs created.  The Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County holds a luncheon every February to discuss the year’s financial successes.  Although the meeting was held virtually via Zoom Thursday and lunch wasn’t served, the EDA had almost 140 registered attendees to listen to the region’s economic standing in 2020.  “It was a pretty busy year considering all things,” EDA CEO Dan Casey said.

How St. Clair County ended 2020 

Casey said the EDA launched its new strategic plan through 2022 at the beginning of the 2020.  “Little did we know that just a couple of weeks later, everything was going to be dramatically affected by the COVID epidemic and crisis that followed,” he said. So the organization had to quickly set aside work to help businesses and communities with the challenges presented with the pandemic, ultimately assisting businesses almost 1,000 times in 2020.

It was a light year for attracting business, but there was still growth. In 2020, the region welcomed 49 projects and the local economy benefited from 524 news jobs, 179 housing starts and investments of more than $95 million, according to the EDA. It was less growth than in 2019 however, with 526 news jobs created, 282 housing starts and investments of more than $1 billion reported by the EDA last February.  Unemployment was also at an average of 4.8% for the county in 2019 while 2020 averaged 11.6%.  During the meeting, Casey said the EDA recently found more than 640 new housing starts announced over the past three or fourth months, so they expect the numbers to continue to rise.  Despite pandemic challenges the EDA also worked on projects in 2020, including a major new industrial manufacturing plant in the St. Clair Industrial Park that started construction about a month ago. However, it hasn’t been announced to the public yet and wasn’t included in 2020 numbers, Casey said.

He said the real “gold star” for the county in 2020 was community development, with $65 million in new projects announced.

Twenty-seven local companies have expanded with investments in machinery, facilities or workforce and some highlighted projects during the meeting include:

Plans for the county moving forward 

Casey said people are going to hear a lot about talent attraction and workforce development this year. He said labor forces are “pretty tapped out” in St. Clair County and there are opportunities to expand the population.  “And to do that we also have to attract new housing into the area,” he said. “We have to work with our school districts to make sure that they’re successful and that they’re telling great messages about themselves to the communities and to potential homebuyers.  “And so we’re doing all of these things, and we’re also putting some focus around strategies related to talent attraction.” The county also is down to “dregs” for 5,000 to 10,000-square-foot buildings available in the area, but development in the southern part of the county is going to help and the EDA is trying to bring new industrial parks, he said. “We just don’t have a lot of product on the market,” Casey said.

Statewide pandemic response and future plan 

Guest speaker Susan Corbin, Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity acting director, said officials were struck in 2019 by the income growth in Michigan, which fell off pace during the 2001 recession, even further still during the Great Recession, and never recovered. What gains the state has seen have gone to the wealthiest 40% and as a result 43% of Michigan households live in working poverty, she said. “Of course, all of this information was pre-pandemic,” she said, before the public health crisis and recession.  In regard to unemployment in 2020, Corbin said the state has paid out $27 billion to 2.3 million workers. “We’ve calculated that the agency has processed as many claims since March 15 as the last seven years combined,” she said.  There’s a lot happening and many different programs in place to help people financially with the pandemic.  While she was pulling together her presentation for the meeting, Corbin said she found more than 1,000 St Clair County front line workers have enrolled in the Futures for Frontliners scholarship. And the state will continue to help people. “The Michigan Economic Development Corporation will continue keeping their finger on the pulse of our economy and the needs of hard-working Michiganders and business services that we serve to keep our economy moving forward,” Corbin said.


Posted By: Times Herald on February 12, 2021.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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