The DeWitt City Council discussed how it should participate in the Clinton County Economic Alliance at its Jan. 22 meeting.
The economic future of Michigan has been a very hot topic the last several years, especially as big three auto company factory closings have decreased manufacturing jobs in the state. Small cities built around these factories have been particularly hard-hit, and have had a hard time attracting businesses to replace the lost jobs.
DeWitt is no exception. The main topic on the agenda for the meeting, and the most controversial, was whether or not DeWitt should work with the CCEA as it tries to lure businesses.
The CCEA was formed in 2007 by several Clinton County residents who wanted to try and bring economic prosperity back to Clinton Country. “We are interested in ensuring economic activities in the county. Last year and the year before, two large companies in Clinton County closed, which took 500 jobs away from the county,” said John Czarnecki, president and CEO of the CCEA.
The CCEA’s primary focus is holding onto businesses that are already based in Clinton County. Its secondary goal is to convince businesses to move offices or facilities into Clinton County to offset recent job losses. The CCEA wants to convince suppliers of companies that are located in the county to open offices here, as well, for example.
To do this, the CCEA, a non-profit organization, is asking for a $10,000 a year commitment for three years from each city or township in Clinton County that becomes a member. This financial commitment is the controversial point for the city council of DeWitt; the cost and requested multi-year commitment were the main points of council members opposed to working with the CCEA.
Jim Lancaster said he supports giving the CCEA funds because it is necessary to be proactive, and the DeWitt needs to do something, and should work with the rest of the cities and townships in Clinton County. Lancaster is an attorney who has worked in economic development and served as the Senior Vice President and General Council for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for two years starting in 2004.
Dave Hunsaker, a DeWitt resident since 1990, disagreed. Hunsaker said $10,000 a year was a lot of tax payer money to spend on a multi-year plan. When Lancaster said that $10,000 was not that much money, Hunsaker replied that if it was not much money, DeWitt would be wiser to just keep it.
$10,000 is a small fraction of DeWitt’s annual budget. “The overall budget for this year for general fund revenues is $2,783,073 and expenditures are $2,797,586,” said DeWitt Treasurer Lisa Grysen.
The council voted to give $3,000 a year for three years instead of the $30,000 requested