Aerotropolis could be the next big thing

Gary Gould — Managing Editor

Gary Gould — Managing Editor

Bishop International Airport and Genesee County have hitched their wagon to a new plan gaining momentum here — an “aerotropolis” zone which supporters hope will bring businesses to Genesee County.

The aerotropolis would encompass the region near the airport and surrounding rail lines and expressways from Port Huron to Shiawassee County. Tax incentives would be doled out to attract new businesses.

Representatives of Bishop Airport and the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce have already been out pounding the pavement, trying to garner the support of local municipalities — each invited to come onboard with a $3,000 annual membership fee to have a vote on the board and the agreement they will give six months notice before withdrawing.

The sales pitch goes a little like this: the Next Michigan Development Corporation, or aerotropolis, designation would establish a Development Corporation Board charged to create incentives to attract business and promote the zone.

Legislation passed in December 2010 authorized the establishment of five aerotropolis designated zones statewide. For Bishop Airport, the designation fits in with the facility’s ongoing expansion of freight and passenger activity.

As soon as the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce pulls together the support it needs — needed within the next couple weeks — they hope to send their proposal into the state for possible approval in February.

To break it down a little better, the designation of an aerotropolis allows a community like Genesee County to potentially attract businesses who will see the airport and other transportation hubs in the vicinity as a viable way to move their products.

For an economically depressed area like Genesee County, still trying to pull itself back up after the neardemise of the auto industry here, it promises jobs and future revenue.

My only concern at this point in the process is let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

From what I’ve read an aerotropolis can be a really good thing for a struggling community. It can bring jobs, business and growth. My biggest concern with it settles on two words: tax abatements.

For years Genesee County and the local municipalities (not all, but some) were known to hand out tax abatements left and right to draw in businesses. Then when it came time for those companies to start paying taxes, they would ask for renewal of the abatement. If the municipality agreed and they got the renewal, they stayed. But if they didn’t get it, the company was apt to pull out and go somewhere else. General Motors was notorious for this sort of behavior — and look where they went.

So yes, an aerotropolis may be a very good thing for Genesee County and Bishop Airport. It may be one of those things we don’t want to get left behind on. But let’s make sure we don’t give away the store in the process of trying to fix our broken economy.

(Gary Gould is the managing editor. Contact him at 810-452-2650 or by e-mail at

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