Township board says yes to Renaissance Zone

FLINT TWP. — By unanimous vote, the township board has approved a resolution for a proposed Renaissance Zone designation for about 63 acres of land near Bishop Airport.

It is one of six sites in Genesee County being considered by the I-69 Trade Corridor Next Michigan Development Corporation (NMDC), a four-county economic development partnership formed last year to attract businesses and jobs.

“We feel it is a unique opportunity for us,” said Tracey Tucker, director of economic enhancement for the township.

The proposed RZ site crosses three jurisdictions — the township, Bishop Airport and the City of Flint. It includes an area southeast of the airport under Bishop’s jurisdiction, an area near the Fed Ex facility; parcels north of old Bristol Road and Koegel and other land north of Bristol road off Market Place Drive including undeveloped property owned by CN railroad, Tucker said.

She stressed existing businesses within the zone would not be eligible for economic incentives such as tax abatements.

“Getting this designation does not say that someone comes in there, that they are not going to pay any taxes,’’ Tucker said.

The township board would determine the length and terms of the tax abatement up to 15 years.

Qualifying business would have to meet several criteria including use of at least two modes of transportation (air, rail, land or water) and provision of a certain number of jobs.

Any projects selected would have to come back before the township board for approval, she said.

“All this basically is, at this point, is a marketing tool,’’ Tucker said of the board’s approved resolution. “It is an opportunity for us to go out and look at corporations that are looking at either the airport or want to be near the airport or the railroad. We will have some tools to work with to bring them in,”

Extra marketing ability was one reason the township joined the NMDC, she said.

“We are competing against other states so we have to have lots of tools. One of the great things about the NMDC is they can get funds in places we can’t.”

She cited a recent project in Imlay City in which the Vlasic pickle company was persuaded to consolidate its Delaware operations in Michigan.

The approved board resolution now goes to the NMDC board for consideration at its meeting next week and from there to state authorities for final approval, she said.

Details about potential benefits from the proposed zone were laid out at workshop last week arranged by Tucker and attended by representatives from the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce (GRCC), which is spearheading the county effort.

Several township board members attended the workshop to ask questions.

The law allows the RZ designation for a total of 1675 acres on 12 sites in the NMDC district, said Janice Karcher, vice president of economic development for the GRCC.

“It identifies areas where in the future you might consider a project or you would really like to encourage a project,’’ she said.

It is likely that most projects interested in the district will only need a basic tax abatement which Flint Township can already do on its own but economic incentive programs only accessible through the NMDC can provide more options to help win projects.

The I-69 Trade Corridor NMDC is the largest in the state, made of up 35 partner municipalities across four counties. Other NMDC average seven or eight partners and one or two counties, she said.

The I-69 NMDC also is the first to go after the RZ incentives.

“We are kind of plowing new ground here and trying to figure it out as we go because no one else is ahead of us,’’ Karcher said. “That’s the reward and the challenge of being the leader in the process. We have worked hard to stay ahead of other regions because we think getting there first is a big marketing opportunity for us.’’

No definite projects are in the pipeline but the NMDC uses a vast network of resources to identify and woo new companies, she said. Its focus is on exporters and moving products out of the area although most businesses in Genesee County strictly use trucks.

The proximity of Flint Township sites to the airport is a good promotional incentive for air freight companies but is not excluded to those.

“Actually the number of companies inquiring about sites in Genesee County is growing and we also are seeing lots of growth for existing companies,’’ Karcher said.

The NMDC may also be looking at proposals for RZs in Burton, Davison, Davison Township, Flint, Fenton, Grand Blanc, Grand Blanc Township, Mundy Township and Mt. Morris Township, There are also a couple of locations in Shiawassee and Lapeer counties, she said.

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