Fiber optics brings growth, developers

ALPENA – Thursday’s Alpena County Intergovernmental Council focused on potential economic development of the M-32 corridor and ways local governing bodies can recruit potential developers. It addressed concerns about traffic near the state highway and how to work together with the Michigan Department of Transportation to address them.

During the discussions surrounding the future development on M-32 several positive projects were brought up in which the council agreed could lead to expansion west of Alpena to the airport. The joint fiber optics project between the city and the county is about halfway complete and when finished will offer fiber for businesses.

The second revolved around the potential of the county having a drone-related business cluster and center of excellence at the airport and how that would spur growth. Wilson Township Supervisor Bill Domke said having fiber available all the way to the airport is a plus, especially if the drone development moves forward.

“It is a great thing and it has been something that has been talked about for years,” Domke said. “If the drone project comes in there could be development all the way out to the airport and this is one way to be ready for it.”

There was some discussion about the possibility of Meijer building a store on M-32 and the impact it would have on an area that is already hampered by traffic. City Manager Greg Sundin said there have been meetings to look into traffic flow changes on Bagley Street, Hobbs Drive and M-32. He said the city’s engineering department, MDOT and the township have been involved, as well as some developers.

After the discussion about M-32 wrapped up, Target Alpena Director Jim Klarich updated the board on some of the ways Alpena can market itself and lure potential developers. He said a simple way is to reach out to people who own homes, cottages or hunting camps in Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency and Presque Isle counties but don’t live here year around. Klarich said these people already have made a commitment to the area and, if coaxed, may make more. Klarich has drafted a letter thanking the people for their investments to live in the area, even part-time and points out if they want to stay and create a business opportunity, Target and others can assist to make it happen. He said he hopes the townships and city will mail the letter with the tax bills.

“These folks need to be engaged and thanked for their investment in Northeast Michigan and at the same time we should be engaging with them to let them know there are career opportunities, opportunities to move or expand their businesses here and at least let them know we want them at those opportunities exist,” Klarich said. “I want the letter sent out to all of the non-homestead homeowners in the four county area. Let’s let them know we are the economic hub in Northeast Michigan and that there are opportunities here and we would love to have them and to stay.”

Commissioner Eric Lawson said he agreed with Klarich’s proposed approach to reach people who spend time in the area already. He said his family used to do the same thing before they moved here permanently.

“Having been one of those seasonal residents I know it is important to reach out to those people,” Lawson said. “I think there has been a disconnect between the two communities. I think involving them is a great way to get them involved in the discussion and on board. We need to find a way for them to own the change of this perfect little place as we move forward.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at