There were tremendous opportunities in the past three months to showcase the momentum and potential of economic development in Manistee County. The Chamber hosted and participated in high-level visits with Lt. Governor Gilchrist and Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) CEO Quentin L. Messer Jr. to witness past investment in Manistee and the potential in the Downtown Gateway project. Messer and the Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) Director also visited Copemish-based M R Products to witness the manufacturing and jobs expansion.

With an eye on bringing innovation to the county to figure out creative solutions that brand the area as a place to invest and develop, the Chamber advocated for and led efforts to bring new investment to area businesses with grants and underutilized tools. This included successful grant applications for a business expansion, federal grants to help fund tourism and outdoor recreation, and laying the groundwork for resources and incentives at the County Land Bank.  

Work continued on priority projects, business retention visits, small business development, and housing development opportunities. There were opportunities to streamline the approach with development and business, as well as implement communications strategies in the quarter.  

You will find more details in this quarterly report. We greatly appreciate your support of the Chamber’s economic development program and look forward to a productive and successful 2022.
Lakeshore Hotel Project 
  • Developers and the City worked towards creating incentives with a Commercial Rehabilitation District.
  • The project, with incentives, will increase tax revenue by 11 times over the current property taxes. (City calculated)
  • After incentives are approved, groundbreaking is expected in 2022, and it will require a 14-month build.

Downtown Gateway Project 
  • Brownfield grants and loans were secured to support demolition and remediation.
  • A timeline from the brownfield consultant was produced for important milestones and approvals.  
  • Chamber facilitates coordination meetings and assists with communications work and other support functions.

Fricano’s Manistee River Restaurant 
  • Supply chain issues have set back renovation efforts, but interior work continues on the project. 
  • The sale of the city property for the deck expansion has been postponed, to allow the City to work through deed restriction issues.  
  • Targeting a spring opening.
  • Assistance will continue on this project.
Incentivizing Development - County Land Bank
  • Research was performed on how county land banks can be used to incentivize development.
  • Incentives from a land bank can bridge the gap for developers between costs and potential revenues and make a local project viable. 
  • Chamber developed a draft proposal on county land bank administration and submitted for review during the quarter.

141-149 Washington Street (old Northern Hotel)
  • Developer moved quickly to put a site plan together, and place project on the agenda for Planning Commission approval.
  • Plans include 15 apartments and one commercial space, targeting a grocery or convenience store.
  • Chamber staff reached out to a local grocery/specialty store to gauge their interest.

Market Niche - Tiny Homes
  • Manistee County’s lower-than-average median income may suggest that smaller footprint apartments or homes can be developed to meet local housing needs.
  • Zoning restrictions may limit opportunities, but some blighted or greenfield parcels in the county may be good opportunities for this type of housing development.
  • Chamber met with a non-profit developer of small, affordable housing. (400-800 square foot homes) 
  • Chamber also met with a county school district to explore possible locations for development.

Promoting Priority Sites - Redevelopment Ready Community (RRC)
  • Program provides assistance to certified communities with prioritized redevelopment sites in downtown areas.
  • The City of Manistee has several sites, and the Chamber is working to attract investors/developers.
  • Chamber facilitated several meetings with building/parcel owners on the program with MEDC.
  • Marketing sheets were created for priority properties.
  • MEDC website was updated to remove older priorities, and application materials in process on new priorities.

Wagoner Senior Housing
  • 13 acres available for redevelopment, and this is an RRC priority site.  
  • Council on Aging wishes to develop the site for senior housing. 
  • Meeting was held to discuss potential for assistance with a Request For Proposal document. (Chamber and MEDC)

New Businesses
  • Businesses continue to contact the Chamber for assistance to either start-up or relocate to Manistee County. 
  • Referrals were made to SBDC for business assistance.
  • New webpage launched for economic development and entrepreneurs to provide businesses and investors with resources.
Business Retention and Expansion Visits
  • Meetings and assistance provided to various businesses in Manistee County. These included Amptech, Manistee National Golf & Resort, Princess Tour Boat, Iron Fish Distillery, and Soggy Dog Adventures (Uber) among others. 
  • Several follow-up meetings were held.

Match on Main Grant
  • Grant application submitted on behalf of the City of Manistee for this grant.
  • Blue Fish Kitchen + Bar was selected to receive a Match on Main grant in the amount of $25,000 to expand their outdoor dining offerings and extend into colder, shoulder season months.
  • Press release by MEDC on December 16, 2021.
  • Chamber is advocating on behalf of Blue Fish for flexibility in the timing requirements to allow the start of the build-out after the summer tourist season. 

Lt. Governor Gilchrist Visit (November) 
  • Chamber staff provided a roundtable discussion for the Lt. Governor on economic development and invited the EDC members and the Manistee Mayor.
  • A wide range of topics were covered, including our progress and momentum on development projects, plus the vision for the downtown Gateway Project. 
  • This high-level visit will maintain visibility, positioning Manistee for assistance in the future.

Michigan Economic Development Corporation, CEO Quentin L. Messer Jr., Visit (October)
  • Walking tour of Downtown Manistee to show the growth potential from the Gateway and need for future investment.
  • Focused also on showing past successes with the Vogue, Blue Fish Kitchen + Bar, and North Channel site, along with the potential of the Riverwalk to turn businesses toward the waterfront.
  • Chamber President and CEO was able to spend additional time with Messer on advocacy and economic development.
  • Messer and the Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) Director also visited Copemish-based M R Products for a tour and discussion on the expansion of their facility, labor market, and manufacturing.

Economic Development Council Strategic Plan
  • Facilitated consensus session held for EDC/Chamber Staff through Michigan State University Extension.
  • Strategic plan materials were provided in the quarter for review and later approval by the EDC.
  • Updated plan will provide guidance for the economic development program and easily communicated goals and action items.

Developer Assistance Online Form
  • Chamber devised an online form to assist developers with their plans and possible incentive details. (in coordination with City of Manistee/County Planning Staff)
  • Form will streamline access to tools, communications, and provide clarity for working within the communities.

EDA Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Grant
  • Grant application work for $1M to support Riverwalk Improvements. (deadline 1/31/22)
  • Outcomes from a successful application will improve access to the Riverwalk, for business development like the Gateway and restaurants, and refresh this unique asset for visitors.

Increasing Our Focus on Housing Needs
  • Marc Miller was selected to serve (December) on the Housing North (HN) board of directors. The organization addresses the needs and conditions to provide housing and development in our communities. (10-county region)
  • Involvement in HN will bring more expertise and focus on an issue important to talent recruitment and job expansion for our employers. 
  • Miller to chair a regional committee “Housing Innovation Council” to explore new ideas, best practices, and policy work.
  • Participated in a Manistee County Housing Action Group, and worked to refine the position description for a proposed housing coordinator. (funded by the County, City, Community Foundation, and others)
  • Chamber will continue to work on attracting housing development and investors to the County.    
Lead Business Retention, Attraction, and Growth
Talent and Workforce Development
Growing Entrepreneurs and Necessary Career Skills
Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
Placemaking and Housing Needs
Building a Collaborative Environment and Effective Communications
James Barker, Munson Healthcare Manistee
Stacie Bytwork, Manistee Area Chamber
Jeff Dontz, Manistee County
Dennis McCarthy, Blarney Castle Oil & Propane
Jim Reithel, Martin Marietta Magnesia Specialties
Tom St. Dennis, Little River Holdings, LLC
Bill Gambill, City of Manistee
Scott Ward, West Shore Community College
Manistee Industrial Development Corporation
West Shore Community College
Manistee County
City of Manistee
Manistee Downtown Development Authority
Blarney Castle Oil & Propane
Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital
Little River Holdings, LLC
Manistee Convention and Visitors Bureau
Filer Credit Union
Consumers Energy
Martin Marietta Magnesia Specialties
Packaging Corporation of America
Morton Salt
Iron Fish Distillery
LakeStar Farms