On hand to address the audience today were Jim VanDoren, Executive Director, and our own Tim Robinson, Director of Operations for Lenawee Now (formerly known as the Lenawee Economic Development Corporation). As noted on their website: Lenawee Now is a non-profit organization dedicated to economic and business expansion throughout Lenawee County. By attracting new businesses, helping to grow established businesses, and supporting entrepreneurial endeavors in Lenawee, Lenawee Now is creating an economically viable and vibrant region. In addition to business attraction, retention and start-up activities, Lenawee Now provides critical services to support business growth including access to funding sources and talent enhancement. Lenawee Now is formerly known as the Lenawee Economic Development Corporation.
They began with a promotional video developed to show prospective business investors, companies and dignitaries. The video mentioned that the organization is part of the Greater Ann Arbor Regional (Lenawee and 5 surrounding counties), the Detroit Regional Chamber, and the Regional Growth Partnership of Ohio. Jim switched to a PowerPoint presentation showing that the single largest employer in Lenawee County is the MEA followed by ProMedica. According to the 2010 census, he said, the total county population was 99,892. Unemployment ranges from 4.3% to 5.3% thanks to many companies in Lenawee County remaining strong and moving ahead.
The LEDC, Jim said, reorganized three and a half years ago and joined forces with all of their economic development partners and they decided their focus would be on Business Development solely of which Entrepreneurial development will be a major part and a key part of their success in the future, Tim said. Among their public/private partnerships, 50% of their funding comes from public entities while the other half comes from private individuals. Among their major investors are: Lenawee County government, Adrian College, Brazeway, Wacker, Gleaner, DTE Energy, etc.
Tim then shared the organization’s successes in 2014: Total investments made - $164M; number of expansions – 5; 49 new jobs through newly created companies in Lenawee County (1,975 new jobs within new and existing companies in Lenawee County); total business attractions – 2; startups – 2. In 2015 thus far: Total investments made - $135M; number of expansions – 2; 833 new jobs through newly created companies in Lenawee County (new jobs within new and existing companies in Lenawee County have yet to be determined); total business attractions – 4; startups – 2! For every dollar invested in 2014, Jim pointed out, $370 was returned! Not a bad Return on Investment!
Among the new investments in 2014 – for a third year in a row, Tim said, Wacker invested $20M! Lily Ann Cabinets purchased the former Merillat manufacturing facility on West Beecher and is now using the space in both buildings (300,000+ square feet) and employee 33 people. Tabani who now owns the Adrian Mall will be part of the grand opening of the new Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant adjacent to Hobby Lobby. Tim pointed out that 47,8% of residents live and also work in Lenawee County which means that the balance or 52.2% (17,007 people) drive out of this county to go to work! A little over 9,000 people are employed in Lenawee County but live outside its borders while 11.7% of residents travel more than 50 miles to go to work!
Among Lenawee Now’s economic development tools, Jim mentioned, are: Revolving Loan Funds- County & LEDC, MILE- Michigan Invests Locally Exemption, Government Ombudsman services, Marketing & PR assistance, Entrepreneur programs- Adrian Tecumseh Smartzone, Property Tax changes and abatements, Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, OPRA- Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act, CRD- Commercial Redevelopment District and the Land Bank Authority. Jim mentioned that their new RedTire program was a suggestion of Mark Murray’s. It is a program that finds new business owners for companies that don’t have a succession plan so they don’t leave Lenawee County.
Jim and Tim concluded their presentation by announcing the new Pure Lenawee booklet which was branded in conjunction with Pure Michigan and covers quality of life in Lenawee County to support economic development “place making”. The booklet won the coveted MEDA Marketing Award in 2014. The organization also received the IEDC Economic Development Award in 2014 for their manufacturing and career study, booklet and partnership with educational leaders.