By MAUREEN O’HARA
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan’s economic growth is the fuel behind Gladwin County road improvements that will create 125 jobs in two private-sector businesses.
“The additional jobs that this funding generates will assist in keeping the county and its job providers competitive,” said Sen. Bill Schuette, R-Midland.
The $355,000 in Michigan Department of Transportation Economic Development Funds will go to upgrade Weber Road to all-season standards from Industrial Drive to the city limit.
Because of the better traffic flow, big trucks will be able to complete difficult turns while the improvements also benefit the expanding company, said Bill Shreck, Bay region communications specialist for MDOT.
“It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” Shreck said. “The area will now be safer for drivers, especially because we all know that nervous feeling when a large truck is about to make a turn.”
Other improvements to the road include the addition of a center left-turn lane and deceleration lane at the intersection of M-61 and Industrial Drive.
Expansion at Dura Automotive Systems, a supplier of door assemblies, will create 100 jobs with its $6 million plant expansion. Plant Manager Rick Burtis said completion of the 51,000-square-foot expansion is expected in April.
Investing $3 million toward consolidating operations into a larger facility is Packaging Direct, a manufacturer of packaging containers in the food industry. The company will create 25 jobs in its growth.
Based on applications from cities and municipalities, the TEDF distributes money to support their economic development. The TEDF, established in 1987, has invested more than $800 million in road improvements over 10 years.
Location is a significant factor in determining the amount to spend on a growing area, said Jacqueline Shinn, administrator for the TEDF. The projects are judged on two levels: transportation and economic development.
“We look at the job creation, are they going to be permanent and full-time?” Shinn said. “We take into consideration the new businesses, the high-tech industry and the investment in the community. There also must be an actual need to improve the roads.”
Each applicant for the fund must pass a list of criteria and is then given a score based on its needs. It is competitive, Shinn said, and there are often more applications than money available.
“We obviously aren’t going to spend $1 to $2 million just for four or five jobs,” Shinn said.
The city and local departments match 20 percent of TEDF funds, although they are encouraged to do more, Shinn said. Of the proposed cost of $675,000, about $320,000 will come from the city of Gladwin and MDOT Bay Region.
“For every state dollar spent on these public road improvements, the private sector is investing $68,” said Doug Rothwell, Michigan Economic Development Corporation president and CEO. “TEDF clearly is one of our most effective tools for fostering Michigan’s economy.”
The five targeted counties will create 2,600 jobs overall and drive nearly a half-billion dollars in area company’s development. The Department of Transportation is funding more than half of the $10.4 million in road work.
“These targeted projects are essential to job creation and keeping Michigan’s economic engine humming,” Gov. John Engler said. “They will help pave the way for $444 million in private sector investments needed to provide good-paying jobs for Michigan residents.”
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By MAUREEN O’HARA