2013-06-27 / Front Page

EDC to shift focus

After losing director, direction is changing

MANISTIQUE – The Schoolcraft County Economic Development Corporation is in the midst of a slew of changes, brought on by the resignation of its former director earlier this year.

According to Dustin Denkins, EDC board member, he is currently serving as interim director while the organization reorganizes both its goals and functionality.

“We have a relatively new board, and we’re looking for a new director,” he said. “I am stepping in as the interim director … to keep us moving forward.”

Denkins said he will fill the position part-time until a new director is selected, most likely in approximately 60 days or less. In that time, he explained his focus will be on reenergizing the organization.

“We’re taking advantage of this change and turning it into a good thing,” he said. “Laurie (Jasmin) was a great director and did great things, but, now that she’s gone, we can take advantage of that and leverage the change.”

The biggest change will be simply changing the organization’s focus back to its original purpose – economic development. He noted that, in the past, this purpose had been buried by other programs the EDC facilitates, such as Michigan State Housing Development Authority housing grants, rehabilitation, and down payments.

“There were so many tasks related to those activities, that she (Jasmin) spent a lot of her time doing that,” he said.

For now, the organization has partnered with Michigan Works! to complete ancillary items, like the grants, to free up the incoming director.

“It starts in the EDC office, but the background activities … can be done by Michigan Works!,” he said. “We’re still going to do those housing grants, but Michigan Works! is going to do those in the back end, so our director for the EDC is going to focus on economic development.”

Denkins noted that the organization’s core strategy will be to focus on how to help the businesses currently located in the area, and how to bring in new business.

“ It’s all about growth and growth,” he said.

The organization and its board has been preparing for a new director by singling out their new purpose and laying out a long-term plan.

“We’re going through a strategic planning process right now,” he said. “Then we’re advertising a position based around that core focus.”

He noted that they had advertised for candidates earlier this year, but received such a wide range of applications because the position and its duties had not been defined. For that reason, he said the board decided to clarify their focus, decide what’s important before advertising again.

“It’s a really exciting time for us, because we get to focus on our core business – economic development,” Denkins said.

Funding from the EDC comes from donations from the county and city, as well as a millage. Working with businesses to uncover the challenges they face, seeing how the EDC can assist them with these challenges, whether it be job placement or logistics, is one of the new focuses of the organization.

The second part of the new focus, attracting business to the community, will be dependent on partnerships among community organizations, Denkins said.

“That’s one of the challenges of attracting new businesses – if you don’t have a partnership between all the key players, then they don’t want to settle here,” he said. “They want to move onto a community that’s connected.”

One example of the type of partnerships needed, Denkins explained, is the current Manistique High School, FutureMark – Manistique, and Carmeuse agreement.

The school and business partnership focuses on training students for eventual careers in industry.

The EDC has already solidified a partnership through Michigan Works! and Bay College to bring a Certified Nurse’s Assistant program to the area.

“There’s a huge demand in the area for health care workers to get that certification,” he said. “So we’ve been working with Michigan Works! to bring one of those classes into the community.”

Because of this work, Bay College will now be offering a remote session in Manistique.

“It’s just little things like that – how can we help businesses that are here,” he said.

For more information on the Schoolcraft County EDC, visit, www.schoolcraftedc.com or call 341-5126.

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