FLINT — City Manager Paul Brake and Mayor Susan Soderstrom were among nearly 200 regional business, civic and education leaders who convened today during the annual I-69 International Trade Corridor Regional Summit to take advantage of opportunities in collaboration with each other.
Various speakers discussed the unique advantages of the Corridor, including speaker Greg Burkhart, Managing Partner of investment firm Duff & Phelps who stated the I-69 ITC has a “…huge advantage.” Burkhart indicated that unlike a lot of areas, the four county corridor is blessed with good infrastructure, especially in Genesee County.
“In Genesee County there are three rail lines…more efficient way to move goods. (The corridor) has three intersecting highways (I-94, I-69, and I-75) in four counties,” Burkhart said. He added that we have international ports as well as Bishop Airport which make us an ideal destination for international shipping of goods.
Burkhart said one thing to focus on is promoting the fact the county has a high technology savvy workforce in the auto industry coupled with research and development in a well established industrial production area—or what he calls a “cluster development”.
Several leaders from the ITC touted agriculture as a new and upcoming focus in business development for the region and the state. Another focus was non-college educated career choices for young people, where needs in not only specialized skilled trades areas were highlighted, but also job basics such as being a good, consistent employee.
On that note, Patricia Lucas of the Lapeer County branch of the corridor introduced a new partnership with the State of Michigan MiTalent.org website. Amy Cell of Michigan Works! was on hand and promoted a video series to debut Feb. 1, which will be aimed at helping develop those skills in conjunction with school curriculums.
Cell stated the video series is part of a statewide initiative to develop essential skills and also launch a $10 million in appropriations for a Skilled Trades Training Fund on October First. Additionally, they will soon be launching “Career Liaisons” who will be sited in local community colleges to provide guidance to students in the local area.
“Manufacturing is not being promoted as a career field,” Cell stated. This was confirmed by other speakers as well as a panel of regional employers who stated they have a hard time finding good factory workers as well as those who can be trained in construction and utility work.
Brake was chosen to present a Certificate of Achievement to Margaret McAvoy, the outgoing Shiawassee Administrator on her 19 years of service. He lauded her leadership and guidance and stated she had been essential in moving the ITC in a positive direction.
McAvoy echoed Burkharts’ comments regarding the surfeit of transportation opportunities in the corridor and said, “We can determine what our future will be.”