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Sunday, 25 October 2015 22:00

Partners hope demolition of blighted factory will spur eventual redevelopment

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The former Carnation Building in the village of Sheridan The former Carnation Building in the village of Sheridan PHOTO SOURCE:

SHERIDAN — A long-vacant and blighted industrial building in a small Montcalm County village could be demolished with the help of a federal grant, better positioning the community for redevelopment in the future.

A consortium of The Right Place Inc., the Montcalm County Economic Alliance and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) is pursuing a $415,000 Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to bring down the dilapidated Carnation evaporated milk plant in the rural village of Sheridan.

“It’s a blighting influence,” Rick Chapla, vice president of business development at The Right Place, said of the building. “This is a structure that is decrepit and falling apart and doesn’t have reuse potential. It’s long been the village’s desire to remove the building.”

The factory, which closed decades ago, now has a “small forest growing inside” and is in danger of collapsing onto M-66, said Ryan Kilpatrick, community assistance specialist at the MEDC.

“That building is not favorable to economic development,” Kilpatrick said. “It’s important for us to help (Sheridan) have a pro-growth image and take care of safety and welfare.”

The HUD grant for demolition, cleanup and remediation of the site — which would be converted to grass — must be approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund board of directors, who will consider the grant at their next meeting on Oct. 27.

There are no immediate redevelopment plans at the approximately two-acre site. Under the requirements of the CDBG grant, the community must leave the site vacant until a job-creator decides to move in.

Economic developers see these types of badly blighted buildings as strong deterrents to private investment, not just on the immediate blighted property but for the community as a whole.

That’s why it was important for The Right Place to get involved after it created a partnership with the Montcalm Economic Alliance in January, Chapla said. The three-year contract calls for the nonprofit economic development group to assist the largely rural county northeast of Grand Rapids in its business attraction, expansion and retention efforts.

“I don’t think (Sheridan) had a clear plan for how they were going to take (the building) down and make it site-ready for redevelopment,” Chapla said. “This is exactly why we have a partnership. While this is not creating new investment and job creation like we typically do, it’s also (removing) a big deterrent to that happening.”

The planned demolition of the former evaporated milk factory in Sheridan speaks to an even larger issue economic developers say they face: encouraging private investment in rural towns across Michigan.

Located nearly 30 miles off the U.S. 131 highway, Sheridan — like many small cities and villages around the state — isn’t located near a major highway, one of the key requirements for many large industrial employers in their site selection process.

Both Chapla and Kilpatrick pointed to the Community Development Block Grant offered by HUD as one effective tool to assist some of these communities in securing jobs in the long run.

“If we can use this (grant) effectively in Sheridan, then frankly we should be able to use it in other small, more rural communities in working with our other economic development partners,” Chapla said.

Moreover, rural development remains a priority at the MEDC, Kilpatrick said.

The quasi-public economic development agency believes it can leverage the Pure Michigan campaign to increase tourism in mid-Michigan to benefit towns like Sheridan, but Kilpatrick also said that employers in industries such as food processing, agriculture and even some advanced manufacturing could be interested in the areas.

“Many of these places have tremendous assets. They are in the heartland so there is plenty of agriculture out there,” Kilpatrick said. “There are opportunities for processing and we also have some auto suppliers in those areas.”

The current rural initiatives, while not new for the MEDC, come at a time of challenge for the agency, which was forced to cut its budget and institute layoffs after disputed tribal casino revenue-sharing funds dried up.

Kilpatrick said the cuts have forced the agency to focus on specific programs.

“We’re working with a pretty limited budget. We do have the capacity to provide technical assistance to the entire state, and that’s our goal,” Kilpatrick said, adding that it’s important for the MEDC to be strategic and intentional in how it targets development opportunities in the state’s rural areas. “(It’s about) where can we be helpful and where can we connect the dots.”

Read 2543 times Last modified on Monday, 26 October 2015 16:33

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