State officials praise local efforts in Michigan’s economic comeback
Downtown Howell was the epicenter Thursday of what could be called Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley’s “reinvention and connection tour.”
Courtney Tarara, one of the owners of Frontal Lobe Coworking in downtown Howell, discusses the business climate with Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.
After touring the Heart of Howell project, which is taking three downtown buildings and recreating them as a one location housing several uses, Calley moved east on Grand River Avenue to Frontal Lobe Coworking. It was there that Calley led an informal roundtable discussion about what has worked in breathing new life into Michigan’s economy after the lowest point of the recession in 2009 left it gasping.
The discussion brought together over 30 people from throughout the community — including state officials, State Rep. Cindy Denby, Howell City Manager Shea Charles, Howell Chamber President Pat Convery, and business owners.
One of the secrets to Michigan’s comeback, Calley said, was building a system for the people who already lived in the state.
Pat Convery, president of the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce, talks about the important role strong downtowns play in attracting residents and workers.
“We didn’t look at how to find someone from out of state to come here,” he said.
The approach centered around simplifying Michigan’s tax code —one of the simplest in the nation, according to Calley — to focusing on the state’s strengths and giving its talent the tools they need to succeed.
“Talent is the new currency,” said Mike Finney, president of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the state agency that deals with jobs.
Convery, president of the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce, said a challenge Livingston County faces is getting the talented people who live here to actually work in the community.
Howell City Manager Shea Charles and State Rep. Cindy Denby listen as Joe Parker, developer of the Heart of Howell project, talks about his business.
“We need to get those people back,” Convery said.
One way to do that is to keep focus on Michigan’s downtowns, she said.
Howell’s City Manager Shea Charles said the city views it’s role as “host of the party.”
“We create the environment for business,” Charles said. “While we’re seeing great investments in the city, the current (state) funding model doesn’t work. It doesn’t translate to revenue for the city.”
Frontal Lobe Coworking sprang from the need its owners saw to maintain and grow entrepreneurial enterprises and keep high-tech jobs in the area. Courtney Tarara, one of the owners of Frontal Lobe, said the entrepreneurial atmosphere of the facility “also gives business to other local businesses.”
You can read coverage of Lt. Gov. Brian Calley’s visit in the Daily Press & Argus by clicking here, and on WHMI 93.5 FM by clicking here.