MANISTIQUE - The Schoolcraft County Economic Development Corp. is seeking a millage after losing funding from the county. During a recent meeting of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners, an EDC official outlined the services and benefits of the EDC - and why the county should support the millage.
The county will seek the $10,000 millage - which equates to .00003 mills - on the EDC's behalf.
According to Laurie Jasmin, EDC manager and Michigan State Housing Development Authority credit counselor, the programs provided through the EDC are indispensable to the county. Homeowner programs through MSHDA, such as home rehabilitation and homebuyer assistance, benefit residents immensely, she explained.
"They're very unique programs and we're proud of the work we've done in the community," Jasmin said. "We'd like to see those continue."
If the EDC dissolves because of lack of funding, the housing programs would have to be shifted to another area organization to administer, she explained.
"I can say that that would be a challenging, challenging move," noted Jasmin. "I think the housing programs would suffer terribly because of it."
By working closely with United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program, the EDC has been able to offer localized assistance to homebuyers, she added. In fact, the EDC is currently looking into becoming a loan packager for the Rural Development program - which could possibly bring in more funding to office.
"We are the only community in the U.P. that has a relationship with USDA," she said. "They come into our office and hold office hours."
According to Jasmin, the EDC has already invested significantly in the community, not only in programs, but in relationships with various organizations and businesses including: local banks, Habitat for Humanity, the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and Michigan Energy Options in Marquette.
The EDC also has more than $1 million in outstanding liens on county homes that have used the rehabilitation program, and has administered approximately $800,000 in Brownfield grants to help community businesses offset the cost of site assessments.
Jasmin pointed out the EDC is also involved in other programs that could potentially bring business to the county.
"Right now, we have a new initiative ... offered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and it is a place to catalog all of our commercial and industrial properties," she said. "When a developer is looking for a place to purchase for commercial reasons, they can go into this site - they can see everything that's available."
And it's not only new businesses the EDC helps, explained Jasmin. When Manistique Papers, Inc. closed its doors, Jasmin promptly contacted a representative from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to find assistance.
"Kathy Cole of MEDC ... was instrumental in working with Manistique Papers," she said. "When they hit their crisis, the first thing that the EDC did was contact the state, and Kathy got right on board and was able to get some financing for the paper mill."
If county residents approve the EDC millage, they will be paying a "minimal" amount for exceptional services, explained Jasmin.
"We're simply asking, through the millage proposal, to replace the $10,000 that we're losing from the county allocation," she said. "We didn't ask for any more knowing that it's some tough economic times and it's a challenge to pass a millage.
When you look at the amount that it's going to cost on a tax bill - I think it's maybe three cents on each $1,000 of assessed value," she added.
Commissioner George Ecclesine agreed with Jasmin about the importance of the EDC.
"Being in the real estate business, I know how valuable ... the housing programs and the job that Laurie's done there ... I'd hate to see us lose that," he said. "It's been a super program for the county."
Jasmin explained that, while the millage won't be a "cure-all" for the EDC's financial struggle, it will help keep the service in the county.
"If the EDC closes its doors door to finances ... we'll hang on for as long as we can," she said. "We'll continue to administer the housing programs for as long as we can until the money runs out."