Support sought for Lenawee development levy 2011.10.19

Posted in 2011 October

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.”

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