ESCANABA - The Delta County Economic Development Alliance (EDA) has played a major role in attracting and retaining businesses in the area for the past two decades and currently has several potential companies looking into locating here.
Twenty years ago, the EDA was established in the county with a mission of economic development, explained EDA Director Vicki Schwab. She was the guest on Escanaba City Manager Jim O'Toole's "Manager Call" session televised live on Channel 21 Thursday.
Schwab said the EDA is currently working with a number of businesses that are considering locating in the county. Company plans are kept confidential until development plans are more certain, she explained.
In the meantime, the EDA assists company representatives by providing information including surveys about the area's demographics. Available workforce, site infrastructure, and area traffic patterns are also concerns of potential businesses.
The EDA works with local financial institutions in helping companies locate here, said Schwab. Grants, where eligible, are also sought for local business growth, she added.
Major areas of economic development encouraged in the area are related to manufacturing, agriculture and tourism, Schwab noted.
An example of a company expanding operations to Escanaba with the assistance of the EDA is Bell's Brewery of downstate Comstock which plans to construct The Upper Hand Brewery, said O'Toole.
Bell's Brewery plans to build a state-of-the-art brewery and bottling company on five acres of land within the Airport Renaissance Zone. The plant is expected to employ five people.
Seven years ago, the EDA started working with NewPage and one of its suppliers to construct a plant on the paper mill's property, said Schwab.
Omya Region Americas and NewPage recently partnered to build a facility to make Precipitated Calcium Carbonate, an essential ingredient in the paper-making process. The project will create seven new permanent jobs.
In addition to attracting new businesses to the area, the EDA also focuses on retaining the companies which are already here, Schwab said, calling the process "economic gardening."
This includes counseling for companies on improving their business. The EDA also works in conjunction with Michigan Works! to connect with potential workers, she said.
The EDA offers assistance in helping established businesses expand their markets to other places worldwide and will even help with arranging for language translators, if needed, she said.
The Delta County EDA is located at 230 Ludington St. in Escanaba, also the location of the Delta County Chamber of Commerce, the Bays de Noc Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Upper Peninsula State Fair, and Delta County's Builders Exchange.