Fletcher: Can’t deny it, consolidation is coming

Although the job is far from finished I believe it’s time to thank Marie Twite and her staff at Alpena Township for shepherding the prospective Meijer store to Alpena. Good job Marie!

Economic development is very hard work under even the most favorable circumstances. In the financial downturn, Michigan dropped hard and Northeast Michigan fell even harder. In order for Jim Klarich at Target Alpena to lure prospects to our area, we need a consensus of governments and commissions to pave the way toward success. Larry Orcott at the Alpena County Road Commission plays as large a role with the traffic as does the township and city with the zoning, tax rates and other services.

Lower tax rates speak for themselves as the cost of doing business is just cheaper in the township than in the city. Zoning is all about restrictions, and the cost to comply. Generally speaking, the more restrictive the rules are, then the higher the cost of doing business.

When Lt. Gov. Brian Calley was here last week, he hailed the fact there are nearly 1,000 fewer regulations in Michigan today than there were just 2 1/2 years ago. He said fewer regulations make for a better business climate in Michigan. If Michigan is the macro level and benefits from fewer restrictions by creating more jobs, then it probably follows that the local governmental units at the micro level might start to grow if we adopted that same philosophy.

Traffic in the M-32 and Bagley Street corridor is a major concern for many of us. Actually I’m not too worried because I trust local officials and law enforcement to figure out the problem. These guys deal with traffic flow all the time and are experts in logistics. You and I think it’s a big deal because in our adult lifetimes the traffic through Alpena hasn’t been much of a problem.

County Commissioner Tom Mullaney also needs some mention here. He’s been working hard on the unmanned aircraft system (drone) project and has not been afraid to strike out boldly seeking to locate a federal training facility here in Alpena County.

When you operate on the edge of new technology, sometimes the way you learn is through the mistakes you make. I don’t think there have been any errors made as yet but if there are some in the future, please be understanding. Believe me, the potential prize for our region is worth the race in this case. The opportunity for all of Northeast Michigan is enormous in this instance.

Many times in business we hear that “It takes money to make money.” Those guys on the Alpena County Board of Commissioners took a big step of faith going after this opportunity. If they are successful, it will be a huge win for all of us, so cut them a little slack.

When he was here last week I heard Calley mention the “C” word – consolidation – as did Alpena Public Schools Superintendent Brent Holcomb. Calley spoke about units of government combining. Holcomb is investigating combining services among school districts. Incidentally, Green Township is combining some parts of fire protection with other townships to provide more protection for both townships’ residents.

Trust me, consolidation will eventually occur in governmental units as well as services. These efficiencies are the only way to survive in the face of declining populations.

Underlying all of the consolidations is the fact local politicians are beginning to learn how to disagree agreeably. Except for the views of one councilman about who can or should run for public office which we read a week or so back on the front page of this newspaper, most language is more temperate between our local leaders.

About two decades ago I accepted a position on the board of an international organization and found that by respectfully agreeing to disagree at times, progress could be made between people of differing religions, cultures, languages, and nationalities. The vision of a common goal was what drove us.

We were all successful and independent in our own organizations but most of us didn’t work well in groups. It took some time but temperate language and persuasion brought us ever closer to our mutually agreed end point.

Rome and Northeast Michigan weren’t built in a day nor will they consolidate in a day. It will happen because economic pressures will force it to occur. You can get there screaming and kicking or quietly and positively, but get there you will.