Aerotropolis gaining ground with municipal support

FLINT TWP. —Plans to form a economic development corridor connected to Bishop International Airport gained momentum Monday night after a decision by the township board of trustees to sign on.

Before approving a resolution to join the Interlocal Agreement for the I-69 International Trade Corridor, the board heard a presentation from Janice Karcher, vice president of economic development for the Genesee County Regional Chamber of Commerce, which is spearheading the project. She was accompanied by Pat Corfman, Bishop’s marketing director.

Karcher explained that 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 Dec. 2010 authorized the establishment of five aerotropolis designated zones statewide, she said.

The designation is of particular interest to Bishop Airport’s ongoing expansion of freight and passenger activity, Karcher said.

“The airport itself is a regional success story already,’’ Corfman added. “This would give us the opportunity to expand it even further.’’

Detroit Metropolitan Airport already has this designation and Lansing Capital City Airport is putting a bid together, she said. One of the five designations has to be located north of Clare, leaving stiff competition for the remaining two.

“We feel it is so important that we don’t get left out,’’ Corfman said. “If we don’t have this tool in our toolbox, we are going to be at a distinct disad- vantage against both Lansing, if they get it, and Detroit, who already does.”

Bishop has already made strides in the right direction with the launch of a Fed Ex facility a few years ago which can take “all those huge semis going down 69 we are not currently capturing,’’ she said.

An aerotropolis would make it easier for businesses to move their goods in and out of the region, she said, adding that it would also bring in more jobs.

Karcher added that growing interest in the Bishop aerotropolis has extended into St. Clair and Oakland counties.

“This is by far the most aggressive and frankly the most complicated partnership proposed for Next Michigan out of all that we are aware of,’’ she said

In agreeing to join the aerotropolis, the township agreed to pay a $3,000 annual fee for three years with the option of withdrawing with six month notice.

Each municipality that signs up will get a seat on a Development Corporation Board formed by the Interlocal Agreement to oversee its operations.

Karcher said municipalities already signed up are the Genesee County Board of Commissioners, the cities of Grand Blanc and Flint and Mt. Morris Township. Others are in the process or reviewing and finalizing decisions, she said. All local municipalities have been invited to join along a development corridor that extends from Port Huron to the western border of Shiawassee County.

Karcher said the Michigan Economic Development Corp. has urged them to submit an application for the Bishop aerotropolis by early January for consideration in mid-February.

“We have been encouraged by the state to move forward in a timely manner,” she said.

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