What’s in a name change?



By now I assume that everyone in Genesee County knows that Flint Township is proposing a name change.

But what should be an uncomplicated decision has become a tempest in a teapot. A volunteer committee met for nine months to debate the pros and cons of the name change. Attendance was open to everyone. A public hearing was held to invite more community input before recommending a name change to the township board in March.

Last month, the township board decided to conduct a survey seeking more input. Now that survey has been postponed until after Labor Day. The name change certainly has detractors but they were outnumbered by a majority at the committee meetings and public hearing.

Name-change propositions in the 1950s and 1970s, and most recently in 2012, failed. But times have changed since the days when General Motors jobs were plentiful and the township was the premier commercial district.

The current name-change effort was prompted by the Flint water crisis which affected existing township businesses and also reportedly scared off at least one potential investor.

Business owners have said that the Flint name tie hurts recruiting because potential employees don’t want to move their families here.

This is not said to bash Flint but it is obvious that the city is struggling with ongoing problems –attracting national attention.

I moved from Flint to Flint Township in the mid-1980s due to rising crime in my neighborhood.

At the name-change meetings, detractors argued that a new township name would hurt Flint but I do not recall hearing anyone say how it could help Flint. Our focus should be on helping Flint Township first.

If major businesses move here, residents countywide would benefit from jobs and a more positive business climate. Imagine landing a distribution center like the Amazon facility coming to Detroit.

How about Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or Costco? There’s plenty of vacancy — the old VG’s store, K-Mart, Furniture Row (next to Kohl’s), Sports Authority and soon Gander Mountain. Sears, Macy’s and J.C. Penney are experiencing a retail downturn that we can only hope won’t vacate Genesee Valley mall.

Businesses pay the bulk of taxes in the township. If more go under, residents will suffer. There’s no guarantee that a name change will boost business, but can it hurt? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Flint Township was organized on March 2, 1836 and included areas of Burton, Clayton, Flushing, Mt. Morris, Genesee, Thetford, Vienna and Montrose, which spun off to protect boundaries or establish a separate identity.

According to historical references, from October 12, 1855 to February 5, 1856, Flint Township was temporarily called Garland Township. which happens to be on the list of 10 proposed names now. In that case the township would be reverting to its former name.

You have all summer to think this over. When the survey opens next fall, the question is not about clinging to the past but about what is best for the township’s future. rsanders@mihomepaper.com

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