Superior Trade Zone looks at defense funding

ROCK — The Superior Trade Zone (STZ) — a state-sanctioned economic development zone made up of municipalities from Delta and Marquette counties — is looking for input on creating a project that would promote growth in the region.

The local trade zone plans to seek up to $50,000 from the Defense Manufacturing Assistance Program (DMAP) for a study identifying ways to improve communities and companies affected by declining defense funding, STZ members decided at their monthly meeting in Rock on Monday.

The STZ — one of seven Next Michigan Development Corporations created to encourage economic growth through state tax incentives — was originally informed about DMAP grant opportunities during its June meeting.

On Monday, the group agreed to participate in the program and scheduled a meeting for Feb. 21 to receive ideas from businesses and other stakeholders on potential projects that would promote economic development.

Next month’s meeting will be held at 9 a.m. at the Lions Club, located on M-35 in Rock in northwestern Delta County.

Delta County’s Economic Development Alliance (EDA) Director Vicki Schwab updated STZ members Monday on the DMAP, which is a tri-state program administered by the University of Michigan in partnership with Purdue University and Ohio State University.

The DMAP helps communities and companies in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio which have been affected by decreases in national defense spending such as declining sales, production or employment.

DMAP grant funds are used for projects to enhance the economy of eligible communities by maintaining or adding jobs and by diversifying products to ensure items in the defense supply chain remain ready for national security, explained Schwab.

In Delta County, there are manufacturers that develop and fabricate parts for military vehicles and ships, as well as companies that conduct advance engineering for the defense department, Schwab noted following Monday’s meeting.

“The uniqueness in Delta County is that the companies do the analytical engineering and develop and fabricate products for the defense department,” she said.

The DMAP grant program began in 2014 and is currently funded through 2018 to assist communities which have at least one qualifying defense contractor that produces services or products for the defense department and is experiencing economic decline.

A municipality is also eligible for DMAP grant funding if the community has been recognized as defense dependent and has been adversely impacted.

The DMAP program can provide eligible communities with up to $50,000 in non-matching grant monies and provide eligible companies with up to $100,000 in matching grant funds through the U.S. Department of Defense, the Office of Economic Adjustment, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy will conduct a study on the STZ region to identify potential projects to improve communities and companies negatively impacted by a reduction in defense spending.

Examples of community projects include economic development plans, feasibility studies, housing studies, marketing studies, marketing strategies, tourism development, and diversification plans.

Company projects include marketing, certification, strategic planning, tax planning, sales generation, product development, and website design.

The local EDA submitted a request to the DMAP program to assist with strategic planning for the STZ, said Schwab, adding the DMAP advises communities to get started on the grant process sooner rather than later.

STZ Chairman Scott Erbisch commented the program is a great opportunity for the group to get moving on as soon as possible.

In addition to Erbisch, other officers elected for the new year on Monday include Vice Chair Jim O’Toole, Secretary Patrick Johnson, and Deputy Secretary Bill Carlson.

The STZ includes city, township and county representatives from Delta and Marquette counties who are working together to market business opportunities, improve infrastructure, and offer financial incentives to promote economic growth in the region where multi-modes of transportation are used.

STZ members from Delta County represent the county, Gladstone and Escanaba cities, and the townships of Bark River, Ford River, Garden, Maple Ridge, Masonville, Nahma, and Wells.

Members from Marquette County represent the county, the city of Marquette, and the townships of Chocolay, Ely, Forsyth, Humboldt, Ishpeming, Negaunee, and Richmond.

Municipalities interested in joining the STZ can contact Erbisch for more information at (906) 225-8151.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,