Collaboration eyed with optimism

ROGERS CITY – A Presque Isle County official and others are optimistic about the collaboration between Target Alpena and the Presque Isle County Economic Development Corporation.

Presque Isle County commissioners approved a contract between Target Alpena and the EDC in March. For $20,000 a year, Target Alpena will include Presque Isle County in its regional strategies to attract business and investment. Target also will take over the loan programs currently handled by the county development commission and the EDC, as well as work to increase export and import opportunities through Port Calcite.

Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Jim Klarich said he’s in the process of introducing himself around Presque Isle County, as well as going through the paperwork to take over the CDC and EDC’s loan programs. The overall goal is to bring Target Alpena’s small business development programs into Presque Isle County, and to market available properties in Alpena and Presque Isle counties together in one portfolio.

“Really, what the goals are is to create an organization, and use our organization as a multi-county EDC,” he said. “We want to jointly promote the area as a whole.”

Klarich already has taken a few phone calls from small businesses asking about Presque Isle County, he said.

Tom Sobeck, CDC/EDC board chairman, said he hopes the arrangement can keep the county’s hat in the economic development ring for a cost the county can afford. He also believes its important to maintain the business and economic activity already in the county.

“I think the more critical issue at this point is maintaining the economy where it’s at and not letting it slide any further,” he said. “Growth is definitely a part of that, but we have to take care of the business and economic activity that we have as well as promote growth.”

It’s time to take a more regional approach, Sobeck said, and previous efforts focused on Presque Isle County alone weren’t as effective as the could’ve been. The collaboration is creating positive momentum, and Sobeck said he’s looking forward to where it’ll lead.

Chairman Carl Altman was a bit more cautious in his optimism, pointing out the arrangement is an experiment, and only time will tell if it works as hoped.

“At face value, it should look like a win-win situation,” he said. “How it comes down, I guess, only remains to be seen.”

Nevertheless, Altman said he’s more optimistic than pessimistic, and believes Target Alpena could give the county more exposure and may have more clout than the CDC/EDC alone. Plus, the arrangement is costing the county less than hiring a CDC/EDC director, secretary and providing an office, and the county can withdraw from the deal if need be.

Like many counties and municipalities, Presque Isle County has struggled with falling tax revenues for some time now, Altman said. Any new jobs could help curb that, even if the jobs were in Alpena and Presque Isle County residents landed them.

As part of the relationship between the EDC and Target Alpena, the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce will work with its counterpart in Rogers City, Executive Director Jackie Krawczak said. She and Klarich will be at the Rogers City Area Chamber of Commerce board meeting on May 15 to talk about the new relationship and how the two organizations will work together.

The meeting is at 6 p.m. at the Rogers City chamber office, and is open to the public, Rogers City chamber Executive Director Alexa Donakowski said.

Donakowski believes Klarich has a solid track record and his knowledge can help the region grow stronger, she said. She cited the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance, a joint effort between Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet counties, and added Alpena and Presque Isle counties should try something similar.

“Theirs is so successful, why wouldn’t we want to band together and make the east side of the state a good place to go,” she said. “I hope more people jump on board once they get wind of it and see what we’re trying to do, because that would be cool if we could get more of the area on board with that.”

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.