2007 Annual Report Executive Summary

Clare County Enterprise Community

As in the past few years, this year’s annual narrative report will be presented in a quarterly format.  We have found this format to be the least repetitive and easiest to read.

First Quarter:  January-March 2007

The annual meeting and election of directors to the board, as prescribed by our bylaws, took center stage.  The notices placed in local newspapers generated enough candidates to fill available seats.  We were pleased to have three persons elected/appointed who were relatively new to the community and brought new ideas for the rest of us. 

It was decided to again partner with Middle Michigan Development Corporation (MMDC) to sponsor a Mock Interview Day for 365 high school juniors and seniors to hone their skills as they prepare for the next stage of their lives.  Students, teachers and parents have told us that this is one of the most valuable experiences of their high school careers. 

After completing two very successful Group WorkCamp projects rehabbing over 100 homes of senior and handicapped citizens it was decided to postpone our third project until the summer of 2009.  The reason for this decision was that a neighboring community within our region had already scheduled a similar project and volunteers could not be recruited to support both projects the same summer.  Decent, affordable safe housing has been a centerpiece of Clare Country Enterprise Community (CCEC) since its earliest days.  Due to concerns brought to the forefront by several citizens, CCEC and the Clare County Housing Commission began studying the possibility of developing a county-wide rental code.  It was learned that countywide code would be found illegal in the courts as this type of ordnance must be generated by cities, villages and townships

CCEC in partnership with Clare-Gladwin Regional Education Service District (CGRESD) has been successful in assisting two local school districts secure 21st Century Learning Grants.  In fact, Clare County received two of the twelve grants available in Michigan.  As the funding cycle was coming to its end, CCEC assisted the CGRESD investigate the possibility of establishing an endowment fund with the Clare County Community Foundation. 

Due to the support of CCEC, Mid Michigan Visiting Nurses received a second USDA RUS telemedicine grant in the amount of $412,722.  It was decided to support the Farwell Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2nd Annual Health & Safety Fair because the activity, to provide education and health screenings to area citizens, fit very nicely with CCEC’s mission.  A proposal from Harrison Community Library to assist with a feasibility study was reviewed and a study/work group appointed to work with the Library Board. 

CCEC partnered with USDA RD and Mid Michigan Community College (MMCC) to host a community program for all elected and appointed officials to showcase the assistance available to local governments and non-profit organizations via USDA RD programs.  The meeting was well attended, and according to Adrian Wagner, it generated many applications. 

CCEC in partnership with MMDC has been assisting the City of Harrison address the issue of a deteriorating downtown and the lack of property available for the development of a fully certified business park.  A Downtown Development Authority has been established and is currently preparing plans to be presented to the community.  In order to address the issue of property for a business park, two additional partners Clare County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and Harrison Area Economic Development Corporation (HAEDCO) were enlisted.  Later in 2007 HAEDCO was able to purchase an out-of-business ready-mix concrete site of 52 acres and secure a Michigan Brownfield Redevelopment grant for $418,000 to bring the property up to usable standards for the development of a business park with all the necessary utilities and amenities.  The reorganization/relocation of one of our manufacturing businesses, which cost the community 139 jobs, was enough of an incentive to remind us that we could not lose sight of the needs of our small businesses and entrepreneurs.  To that end, funding opportunities were investigated to establish a revolving loan fund, and a partnership was formed with our local SBTDC to hire a small business counselor. 

Second Quarter:  April-June 2007

Much of the second quarter was spent preparing and reviewing the Two Year Plan of Work ending December 31, 2008, which will be addressed later in this report.  With less than two years left of the Enterprise Community (EC) designation, there was much to be considered.  With many ongoing projects/initiatives, it was decided to hire an associate director to tend to some of the many tasks associated with these ongoing projects/initiatives.  The plan being, the executive director, along with the executive committee and established workgroups would explore the unattained benchmarks and prioritize those that are doable. 

Several matters related to the Small Business Initiative Council (SBIC) were addressed during this quarter.  First, a discussion with Mid Michigan Innovations (MMI), a non-profit dedicated to the purpose of business incubation, was initiated to explore the possibility of a partnership that could create a satellite incubator site in Clare County. As part of the discussion process, the entire membership of SBIC made a trip to MMI’s current incubator located in a neighboring county.  With the possibility of a new business park located in Harrison and potential state funding being discussed to encourage local incubators, such a partnership would be very beneficial to the Small Business Initiative.  Second, the final revisions were made to the USDA RD application to secure funding to establish a revolving fund for small business.  We have had many entrepreneurs express the need for financing which is often viewed as too risky for traditional lending sources.  The challenge is getting these entrepreneurs to put their needs in written form to be used as evidence of the need for such a loan source.  We found that a good way to address this situation was to ask our entrepreneurs to provide copies of loan rejection letters they had received from traditional lending sources. 

Harrison Community Library decided to host a public meeting to share the plan of conducting a feasibility study regarding their current and future needs.  Members of the CCEC study group assigned to this initiative attended and report back to the CCEC Board. During the May 2007 meeting, it was decided to support the study with a contribution of $13,000.  The rationale for this decision was that our libraries are a part of the community infrastructure that makes for vibrant-well educated communities.  While the Harrison Community Library is studying how it will meet citizens’ needs, Pere Marquette District Library (Clare) opened a newly constructed facility with the assistance of a USDA RD community facilities loan. 

The Clare County Continuum of Care Committee to Prevent Homelessness, formerly a workgroup of CCEC, hosted a “Meet the Provider” event where all of the housing services providers presented their programs so that each would know what the others had to offer.  CCEC reaffirmed its commitment to coordinated land use by hosting a multiple county seminar entitled:  The Economics of Rural Land Preservation.  Over 50 land use officials and citizens attended.  Due to a request by the Clare County Planning Commission (CCPC), CCEC facilitated a meeting of representatives of the CCPC, CCEC and Clare County Parks and Recreation Commission to discuss the possibility of construction of a community center.  It was decided that the group needed to review the CCEC Strategic Plan, CCPC Master Plan and Recreation Master Plan and develop a conceptual paper suitable for approaching other partners, mainly Mid Michigan Community College (MMCC). 

Redding Township received a second grant from USDA RD to complete the Township Hall/Community Center, which has been under construction since last winter. 

Several meetings were facilitated by CCEC with a local developer who is interested in utilizing the feasibility study commissioned by CCEC and completed by Larson Allan of Minneapolis to establish an assisted living/memory care center in Clare County.  This initiative is still in discussion stages with a second developer showing interest.

Third Quarter:  July-September 2008

This quarter began with a very productive DASH meeting.  DASH is a local coalition dedicated to Decent, Safe and Affordable Housing facilitated by CCEC.  With new personnel in place, DASH has reorganized and prepared a plan of work.  The first change was to agree to quarterly meetings, with well-organized agendas, rather than monthly.  CCEC agreed to update the Housing Assistance Directory.  Michigan State University Extension and Mid Michigan Community Action Agency agreed to create a Flow Chart of services available to Clare County residents.  Clare County Housing Commission will provide as much positive advertising and outreach as possible.  

Jeri Hooper, recently hired small business counselor, was introduced to the CCEC Board of Directors and she presented her plan of work for next quarter.  She has completed the required SBTDC staff training and is working daily with entrepreneurs and small business owners. 

Gene DeRossett, USDA RD State Director presented Clare County with a check in the amount of $25,000 to use as seed money for the Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) for small businesses.  Clare County Board of Commissioners appointed the RLF Project Review Board.  Adam Smith, RLF administrator prepared the application and supporting paperwork necessary to the SBIC for approval.  After approval, he and Jeri Hooper distributed applications and information packets to the appropriate locations such as local banks, chamber offices and the SBTDC.

The Clare County Leadership Institute curriculum committee presented an update to CCEC.  The most significant change is the addition of a required community service project.  CCEC Board of Directors discussed the value of such leadership training and agreed to offer a scholarship to any board member wishing to participate.  Four members are currently enrolled

USDA RD officials, Jackie Morgan and Doug McDowell presented an update to the CCEC Board of Directors of USDA RD projects currently or recently funded in Clare County.  Some of the recipients of USDA RD funds are Clare County Housing Commission, Mid Michigan Community Action Agency, Clare County Sheriff’s Department, Clare County Board of Commissioners, Village of Farwell and the Harrison Area Fire Department. 

Finally, during this quarter the Clare County Board of Commissioners, upon the recommendation of the County Treasurer, created the Clare County Land Bank.  The creation of the land bank has enabled the County to assume ownership of tax reverted properties for such purposes of housing, parks, and economic development.

Fourth Quarter:  October-December 2007

We began the quarter with a report from Housing Advocate Sharon Jeffery.  We learned that 91 clients were served.  However, many clients are in need of multiple services, equating to 175 units of service being delivered.  We also learned that much emphasis was shifted to address the high number of foreclosures.  We learned that working with families involved in foreclosure proceedings is a difficult and all too common occurrence.  Health issues, divorce, partners separating, and loss of employment are preventing homeowners from being able to keep up with mortgage payments.  Plans for addressing this very distressing issue, such as an enhanced publicity campaign, are in the works for 2008. 

With the update of the DASH Housing Services Directory complete, it was decided to print and distribute 500 copies.  The directory is on CD, easily updated and distributed electronically to those individuals and agencies that have technological capabilities.

One of the issues regularly discussed by the Leadership workgroup is how to deliver leadership skills to our youth.  Listing Ear, a local non-profit agency that provides referral services for Clare County youth, presented the CCEC Board with a proposal to deliver a youth leadership initiative to @risk youth ages 10-17.  After a thorough review, it was decided to partner with Listening Ear to provide the proposed program during the summer of 2008. 

The community center initiative is moving forward.  A meeting took place with the community center workgroup and Carol Churchill, President-Mid Michigan Community College.  The conceptual paper prepared by the workgroup was reviewed.  President Churchill was accepting of the idea of a partnership and agreed to take the idea back to her board.  The board, after reviewing the proposal, was willing to look further into the issue.  Senior staff reminded everyone that a similar initiative was investigated in the late 1980’s.  A feasibility study was competed with a positive outcome.  Armed with the feasibility study, the MMCC board had asked the voters for millage in support of the project.  Unfortunately, the millage attempt was unsuccessful and the feasibility was placed on the shelf for lack of a champion. 

Currently, a review of the feasibility study is taking place by the workgroup, with plans to update the study.  If results are again positive, plans will be made as to how to move this initiative forward. 

During their November meeting, the CCEC Board heard their first official report from Jeri Hooper, SBTDC Small Business Counselor.  She reported working with 68 Clare County residents, providing over 100 hours of free business counseling.  The board indicated they were very pleased with the numbers they heard, as they were far greater than expected for such a short period of time

The board also heard the results of 2007 recycling efforts.  It was reported that the annual Household Hazardous Waste and Electronics Collection Day netted 19,500 pounds of lead, copper, and other heavy metals; 15,269 pounds of toxic, corrosive, flammable and poisonous waste; 1,080 gallons of oil, 160 gallons of used antifreeze. 

It was reported by MMDC that with the extension of a county road in a neighboring county, 160 acres of industrial properties became available for development, with the potential of creating 700 living wage jobs.  In the business of economic development/job creation we have learned that a regional approach is much more effective. 

Clare County Commissioners asked for a letter of support for the Clare County Airport Enhancement Project.  Since a portion of the airport has been developed as an industrial/business park, the EC board felt it was appropriate to lend their support. 

A new partnering opportunity was investigated with Central Michigan University.  CCEC facilitated a meeting between USDA RUS officials and CMU’s School of Health Professions to explore the possibility of a telemedicine project that would consolidate individual medical records of citizens in an 11 county region into a single electronic database. 

One of the true highlights of this quarter was to see Mid Michigan Community Action Agency relocate its corporate headquarters to one of CCEC’s developable sites.  Seventy-five employees work out of this location serving 18,000 clients annually.  This move was partially made possible by a 1 million dollar USDA RD community facilities loan.  1.3 million dollars came through local fundraising efforts with the remaining funds coming from earned income.  As the year ended, there was a great deal of speculation at to what CCEC will look like a year from now.  The close out plan indicates it will become a stand alone 510 (C) 3 non-profit organization carrying on the work as outlined in the strategic plan.

 

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