Someone recently asked me where things stand with Flint. And given that this is something that I think about practically every day, I said what I’ve said many times this year – ‘Flint is at a tipping point’. What happens over the next three years could significantly increase or slow down our metro area’s growth trajectory. In addition to business investment, jobs and education, investing in our neighborhoods and shifting perceptions of Flint are also vitally important.
For as many people as we have who are working tirelessly on moving Flint forward, we need many more; those who will embrace the vision and master plan, are inspired by the region’s energy and undeniable progress, and choose to get involved. In fact, this is one of the major reasons the Flint & Genesee Chamber along with our partners will host the first-ever Flint Homecoming on Aug.16-17, recruiting Flint expatriates from across the country to come home to the invitation-only event.
We want Flint expats to return and fully participate in the 1-1/2 day Flint Homecoming and leave with a desire to invest. We want them to see what Flint’s resilience looks like. As I’ve said before, stroll the new Flint Farmers’ Market, where you might bump into a few of our 30,000 college students from all over the world. Young people from the University of Michigan-Flint, Kettering University, Mott Community College, Baker College and others, who are feeding millions of dollars into the local economy.
We want them to know that the Flint & Genesee economy is becoming more diversified, helping to create more jobs. That we are seeing an increase in personal wages and the region’s unemployment rate is steadily improving. And the housing market in Flint is showing signs of a comeback. Home values are increasing.
We also want the expats to know that Flint is a worthwhile investment. Our investors continue to show confidence in the Flint area bringing new businesses and expanding existing ones. Last year – during a very challenging time – the Flint & Genesee Chamber supported projects that resulted in over $503 million in investments and government contracts, and tourism generated $131 million in economic impact.
There are so many bright spots – both economic and quality of life – which I could not begin to cover them in this column. But when our expats come to town. We plan to give them a great experience that inspires them to reconnect, rediscover and contribute to the city’s reinvention. Presentations and engagement activities will acquaint the expatriates with “Flint today” – the city’s strengths and assets, its challenges, what’s needed to change the narrative about Flint, and build on the progress that began prior to the water crisis.
On behalf of my Flint Homecoming Co-Chair Phil Hagerman and I, and the 30+ organizations that are represented on the Host Committee, we simply can’t wait to share the other side of the story. We’re providing a front-row seat to Flint’s revitalization. So, Flint expats, my message is simple: come on home.
Tim Herman is the CEO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce