MARQUETTE – The Marquette City Commission Monday unanimously approved the expansion of the Local Development Finance Authority to include the entire city.

The action was taken to put the city in a better competitive position to become a SmartZone Satellite and take advantage of other possible future economic growth opportunities.

A SmartZone is designed to help municipalities and regions support the growth of technology-based companies through collaborating with universities, industries and other entities. The goal of a SmartZone is to attract high-tech and similar jobs and use special funding opportunities to attract these jobs.

Commissioner Don Ryan called the move a “major part” of the city’s moving forward with the SmartZone concept, which has worked successfully at Michigan Tech.

“Certainly we have an outstanding model to look at,” Ryan said.

The Michigan Technical Education Center based in Houghton and Hancock, has approached Marquette about being a Satellite, although the state of Michigan is awarding and funding only up to three Satellites.

The city’s LDFA, long dormant, had been created in 1988 to include the River Park Complex.

An LDFA, necessary for becoming a SmartZone Satellite, captures certain taxes through tax-increment financing and provides a funding source to meet the local funding match requirement.

There will be no millage change to property owners with the boundary expansion, nor will the city limits change, city staff has said.

The commission held an April 28 public hearing on the LDFA boundary expansion but had to wait 60 days to take action.

Over the summer, a TIF plan is to be developed and reviewed by the state, after which the plan will go before the city commission as a public hearing. The commission then will act on the plan that if approved would be sent to MTEC, which would submit the application to the state.

Mayor Pro Tem Fred Stonehouse said, “The biggest complaint of the Upper Peninsula, and the city of Marquette included, is that we export three things: We export wood, rocks and our kids, and we export the kids because they can’t find good jobs at home. And this is an opportunity to change that dynamic.”

City Manager Bill Vajda said the city will continue to search for candidates for the LDFA board.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.