Support sought for Lenawee development levy 2011.10.19

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Perhaps the most important election for Lenawee County.

That’s the way Doug Kapnick views the county’s Proposal 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Kapnick, who serves as chair of the Lenawee Jobs Now committee, visited Morenci last week to drum up support for the millage proposal that would levy 0.28 mills four years. The levy would cost $14 a year for the owner of a home valued at $100,000.

If passed by voters, the levy would bring in an estimated $880,000 to promote economic development and job creation in Lenawee County. Morenci property owners would send more than $14,000 toward Lenawee Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) efforts, far more than the $3,600 that city council now contributes.

Employment conditions are changing in Michigan and around the world, Kapnick said, and Lenawee County needs to be able to take advantage of the possibilities.

Michigan’s favorability rating for business development is moving in a positive direction, he said, and developers are looking favorably at the state.

Michigan has ample manufacturing facilities ready to be used, an excellent supply of fresh water, and a skilled labor force. The Rust Belt is being rediscovered.

“There are about 24 companies looking at Lenawee County,” Kapnick said. “We need to be able to respond and sell them on Lenawee County.”

The LEDC operates on a combination of government and private dollars, with about twice as much coming from public sources. Due to falling property values and government budget shortfalls, funding is also falling for the LEDC, and that’s coming at a bad time, Kapnick said.

About 6,000 jobs have been lost in the county in the last five years and census figures show a drop in population of about 10,000 people. The numbers of public school students lost is equal to that of the Tecumseh school district, the second largest in the county.

The LEDC has been active in meeting with businesses, helping make connections between businesses to benefit each other, offering entrepreneurial programs, and helping to retain and attract business. Kapnick said more is needed.

“We’ve not had the money to promote ourselves,” he said, “and we have a lot to sell.”

LEDC president Jim Gartin said that developers have favored the southwest United States in recent years, but he’s seeing action returning to the Midwest. He’s even heard about overseas expansion returning to the United States as foreign employment and shipping costs rise.

Manufacturing skills, a transportation network, facilities, quality schools and job training opportunities—Lenawee County has a lot to sell, Kapnick said, and the LEDC needs to act now.

Members of the Lenawee Jobs Now committee have been engaged in an extensive campaign to promote the levy by scheduling forums throughout the county and visiting organizations, senior centers, etc.

“We’ve discovered that if people don’t understand it, they’re just going to see it as another tax increase,” Kapnick said. “We have the opportunity to change things for the next generation. This may be the most important election for Lenawee County.”

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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