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Trade zone talks defense funding

ROCK — The Superior Trade Zone (STZ) held a facilitated focus group with the University of Michigan’s Defense Manufacturing Assistance Program (DMAP) earlier this week during their monthly meeting, discussing and identifying ways to improve communities affected by declining defense ­funding.

The STZ is state-sanctioned economic development group comprised of representatives from municipalities from around Delta and Marquette counties as well as representatives from both counties that look at various opportunities to market business, improve infrastructure, and offer financial incentives to promote economic growth where multi-mode transportation is used.

Back in January, the group discussed the possibility of working with the DMAP, which works with communities and companies impacted by declines in defense funding.

DMAP can provide eligible communities with up to $50,000 in funds per project and provide eligible companies with up to $100,000 in matching grant funds through the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Economic Adjustment and Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). After DMAP analyzes and reviews the proposed projects, they will get back with the STZ to discuss the possible creation of them, said Delta County’s Economic Development Alliance (EDA) Executive Director Vicki Schwab.

During Tuesday’s meeting, members split into three groups, discussing projects that could be funded by DMAP and potentially “help improve (the) economy here in the U.P.”

Some Delta County business manufacturers — including Northern Machining, Delfab and Creative Composites — were in attendance to bring their ideas to the table, noted Schwab.

Projects discussed included manufacturers that use various modes of travel to do business such as by railway, shipping, or by roads, the implementation of broadband internet services, the use/implementation of renewable energy sources along with the stabilization of energy costs. In addition, skilled trades and training for future workers were also discussed, said Schwab, noting more opportunities are being made available in these fields.

The smaller groups then brought their ideas back to the larger group, where they prioritized the projects. Based on the application and input, DMAP will analyze and determine which projects can be funded and start the grant process, explained Schwab. DMAP will eventually help the STZ pick a consultant to work with for the eligible project.

“It was a great session,” she said, adding the STZ is excited for the opportunity to continue work the DMAP to improve the economy in the U.P.

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