Marquette County, city OK interlocal agreement

MARQUETTE – The Marquette City Commission and the Marquette County Board on Tuesday unanimously adopted entering into an interlocal agreement to create the Superior Trade Corridor Next Michigan Development Corporation.

It will be a cooperative development zone within Marquette and Delta counties that’s expected to allow the areas, located near transportation hubs, to use tax incentives to support business growth, particularly multi-modal businesses.

The new agreement was to be brought before the cities of Marquette and Escanaba and the governing boards of Marquette and Delta counties for approval.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is among the state organizations that would have to approve the agreement.

Mayor Robert Niemi said he is pleased with the agreement, acknowledging the Next Michigan Development Corporation will be a tool for economic growth by providing the ability to set up local development finance authorities and tax abatements, for example.

He pointed out Marquette and Escanaba both have shipping ports on lakes Superior and Michigan, respectively, as well as airports.

“It’s just a natural opportunity for us to set up this zone for economic development,” Niemi said.

The NMDC also could give a fledgling business support in its early stages.

“But I think also the revenue that will be available to corporations at the onset will allow them the money to organize and operate and perhaps advertise the area,” Niemi said.

He said the NMDC is similar to the SmartZone concept. The city commission recently approved expanding its local development finance authority boundaries to include the entire city to put it in better standing to be chosen a SmartZone satellite.

However, the Marquette SmartZone concept is aimed more at a high-tech cluster, he said.

“Actually, the two will be working together, I’m sure,” Niemi said. “It will allow us right away to expand the ability of the SmartZone to do things outside the city of Marquette.”

For example, a SmartZone’s business incubator or entrepreneur classes could be duplicated by the NMDC, he said.

“Perhaps it would be to facilitate the cooperation of a business that’s in Escanaba to open a branch in Marquette, or vice versa,” Niemi said. “There’s just all kinds of opportunities and you can’t really say what is going to happen, but it’s going to position the entire area for the future.”

City Commissioner Don Ryan said he believes it’s important to have the agreement and although it’s not necessarily a “silver bullet,” it provides economic tools should opportunities present themselves.

“I think it’s also important to have this relationship with the state,” Ryan said. “Obviously the state of Michigan and the MEDC play a very powerful role in economic development today, and I think they also look very favorably on regionalism.”

County board Chairman Gerald Corkin said there wasn’t a down side to the agreement. Marquette County Administrator Scott Erbisch also pointed to the I-69 International trade corridor as an example of an NMDC that’s evolving but has seen some success.

Erbisch said the Marquette-Delta NMDC opens up opportunities, extra tools and the potential for additional renaissance zones between the two counties.

“It’s a lot of detail in this agreement, and it’s very complex, and there’s many steps ahead in it,” Erbisch said.

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