Lenawee Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) director Jim Gartin is seeing improvements in the county’s business climate, but new hiring isn’t yet showing much increase.
Gartin spoke at Morenci’s Nov. 8 city council meeting to provide an update on LEDC activity and to report on area business conditions.
Through his agency’s Business Retention, Expansion and Attraction program, 65 percent of businesses contacted report an increase in sales, and more than six percent say sales are way up.
“At first, reports were pessimistic,” Gartin said, “but they’re improving. Almost all of the local manufacturing is showing positive trends.”
However, he’s not seeing much increase in hiring. Companies seem to favor overtime rather than new employees.
“They’re doing more with less,” Gartin said.
Unemployment has dropped three points in recent months, he said, and each percentage point represents about 375 jobs.
“We’re really seeing positive trends,” he added.
During visits to county businesses, LEDC personnel are getting a clearer understanding of companies’ core capabilities and of their supply needs. A goal is to try to find local suppliers rather than shipping in materials from other parts of the country.
So far this year, LEDC has been involved in 28 projects that are either existing, growing or new to the area. Four are food related, five are automotive related and eight are tied to alternative energy.
LEDC responded to 18 requests for existing industrial property or vacant land.
Gartin expects additional funding from the state through CDBG grants when the existing money in the LEDC’s revolving loan fund runs out. The fund has $565,000, with at least $770,000 requested.
The LEDC administers brownfield development grants on behalf of Lenawee County for hazardous substances assessment. Two of the three projects addressed are in Morenci.
If the city becomes the owner of the Dunbar Auction House property on North Street, funds will be used to assess contaminants left over from previous uses at the building.
In addition, there’s interest in the renovation of the former Knoblauch Market property on Main Street to create two commercial spaces and second floor apartments.
Gartin said that since April 2009, 217 people have participated in entrepreneurial education workshops, plus an additional 29 who were part of an agriculture development seminar.
The sessions have been attended by people wanting to start new businesses and also by those interested in expanding an existing business.
Workshops have addressed a variety of concerns including writing a business plan, marketing, selling on eBay, accounting/QuickBooks, and retail success. There was also a session by the Adrian College Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies Boot Camp.
Class schedules are listed on the LEDC website (www.onelenawee.org). The website also list vacant industrial sites and information about living in Lenawee County.
LAND SPLIT—Council members voted 5-0 Nov. 8 to approve a parcel division at 101 and 115 E. Chestnut, near the water tower. The action was requested to change the frontage of the two lots.
MISC.—Mayor Keith Pennington said the annual audit report is scheduled at the Nov. 22 meeting. A council committee will continue discussion on Michigan’s new medical marijuana law and how it will affect the community.