Economic development to be sole focus for new Clinton Township hire

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 4, 2020

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — In an effort to bring in more business, a new economic development facilitator will be hired in Clinton Township.

Unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees at its Jan. 21 meeting, this new position is likely to operate within the Planning Department.

Trustee Ken Pearl wrote a letter Jan. 13 to the Board, describing how the expansion and diversification of tax bases are conducive to benefiting the local economy. In addition to bringing in new tax revenue and employment opportunities, the position will also assist fledgling businesses or areas.

Pearl said the full-time position is one he had discussed in the past with other board members. He decided to bring it forward after conducting his own research while deliberating with administration.

Multiple reasons exist at this juncture for having such an employee. Aside from mirroring cities like Sterling Heights, where such personnel are plentiful, it also allows for officials like Planning Director Bruce Thompson and Supervisor Bob Cannon to get some weight off their shoulders.

“Our current director and previous director were busy doing planning and doing what they could to work with existing businesses and bringing in new (businesses),” Pearl said Jan. 28. “But dealing with planning and zoning matters takes a lot of time.”

The vision of the ultimate candidate has to be one that aligns with the visions of the community’s future, he added. That includes being able to further help implement the township’s current strategic plan, maintaining what he called “a macro-level perspective” of the township’s economy.

Recruiting new businesses, retaining existing businesses and assisting local operations with expansion is part of that perspective. That includes the utilization of fellow employees, community partners and land use programs to gauge the physical and economic climate.

The ever-changing economy has hurt local retailers. Vacant big box stores are a new normal.

“I just don’t see us waiting around for something to happen,” he said. “I just see too many empty buildings. … I think it’s something overdue. We can’t keep falling backwards.”

At the Jan. 21 meeting, Treasurer Paul Gieleghem said the reality is that the community grew for over 40 years. Today, the Planning Department is bombarded, and the township requires someone to focus specifically on economic development.

“It used to come to us, and now we’ve got to go out and fight for it,” Gieleghem said.

Cannon said Jan. 28 that the township didn’t need such a position years ago. As he put it, “We were growing so rapidly, by leaps and bounds. Sort of how Macomb Township is right now.”

He acknowledged that he and Thompson working to recruit new businesses “takes a lot of work” to cultivate relationships and maintain them. He said businesses need reasons to call Clinton Township home.

“Those personal contacts are what bring people and money and business to your community,” Cannon said.

A job description was being developed for the position at press time. Patience is important in seeing things through, Cannon added, especially as the township is going through a strategic plan and an elaborate study of the Groesbeck Highway corridor.

“A lot of things are coming together at the same time,” he said.

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