Written by: Audrey Sochor
At the Economic Development Alliance semi-annual meeting on Feb. 12 the talk was all about collaboration. Collaboration between private business, the nonprofit sector and local government to make the county the best it can be for both current residents and future generations.
“It’s not about fighting anymore,” said Donna Russell-Kuhr, president of the EDA of St. Clair County. “We need to hear about everybody’s ideas from all those different sectors because that’s how we’re going to make improvement to make our county a jewel for the state of Michigan.”
One of the main topics of discussion was bringing back the skilled trades to the forefront of our region. Guest speaker Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley said while the state has made an extraordinary comeback, many communities like St. Clair County don’t have enough qualified workers for the jobs available.
One reason, he said, is because for too long the pendulum had shifted to a place where it was all about college constituting success after high school, when in fact there are many tracks – often with a higher income and better career options than a college degree provides.
Both Calley and Russell-Kuhr praised the collaboration between businesses and the education system to sponsor things like FIRST Robotics.
“At the end of the day it creates opportunity for that child and a ready workforce for that business,” Calley said. “It’s a true win win win across the board for our communities, our employers and our students.”
Another topic was the development that has or will be happening in the region. Dan Casey, CEO of the EDA of St. Clair County, said 12 to 15 projects have recently been announced. All great things, because every time a project breaks ground means adding a new resident, business or tax base to the community, he added.
In 2018 the EDA plans on implementing a talent strategy targeting commuters and people who moved away, either during the recession or to attend college. Things like social media, billboards and a hometown event are in the works to bring people back and re-familiarize them with the things happening in the community.
Russell-Kuhr said they need to keep reinvesting what they’ve already started and fine-tuning those programs.
“And that’s the thing,” she added. “We want to provide awesome job opportunities, a great place to live and a wonderful place to have fun. And in St. Clair County not just for the residents that are here already, but for the young people – our young people – coming up. We want them, we want that best talent to stay right here in St. Clair County.”