City of Grayling graduates from state’s Project Rising Tide program
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Grayling has done a great job as far as being part of Rising Tide. There have been a number of wonderful projects that have already happened, there are more on the drawing board, and the community is rallying together. There is a bright future here in Grayling.” – Gov. Rick Snyder
Gov. Rick Snyder, state officials, and just over a half dozen local officials donning caps and gowns marked a year-long effort focused on planning and economic development.
The City of Grayling graduated from the state’s Project Rising Tide program at a brief ceremony held at the Grayling City Hall on Thursday, Feb. 15.
“Rising Tide is a program guided by the Department of Talent and Economic Development, tapping expertise from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and the Talent Investment Agency,” according to www.michigan.gov. “One community from each of the state’s 10 prosperity zones were selected in September 2015 to participate in the inaugural class of the program.”
Technical assistance ranged “from helping communities obtain grants to improve parks, to assisting residents in gaining employability skills, to guiding leaders through better budgeting and zoning processes,” according to www.michigan.gov.
Through Rising Tide, Grayling leaders received technical assistance in creating a comprehensive economic development strategy, a communications plan, a new regional brand, and a downtown revitalization effort. The programs are intended to boost development, create jobs, and improve the quality of life.
Gov. Snyder was impressed by local officials who showed up in caps and gowns to mark the community accomplishments.
“Grayling has done a great job as far as being part of Rising Tide,” he said. “We had people in cap and gown today, so that shows the excitement level because there have been a number of wonderful projects that have already happened, there are more on the drawing board, and the community is rallying together. There is a bright future here in Grayling. I’m glad we could be part of this as far as being a catalyst.”
Since Project Rising Tide started in Grayling, 12 new businesses have located in the community, six community engagement sessions were hosted, five new restaurants and breweries opened for business, and one restoration project is underway.
Arauco, an international company, is building North America’s largest particle board manufacturing plant in Grayling Charter Township, expecting to create more than 200 jobs.
City of Grayling Mayor Karl Schreiner recalled when he moved to the community 42 years ago in the midst of the Bear Archery strike. The strike and efforts to form a union resulted in hundreds of jobs leaving Grayling for Gainesville Florida.
“When Bear Archery left, I heard a lot of people say that Grayling will die,” he said. “We’ve had our tough times, and things got really tough when the whole economic depression hit, but we’re still here.”
Schreiner also noted times when community groups were going in several different directions for community progress.
“People are focused now, and they are moving forward together,” Schreiner said.
Tom Steffen, a retired college professor, served as the commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony. He and his wife, Judy, are planning on building condos on a vacant lot near Farm Bureau Insurance in addition to redeveloping the former Sawmill Billiards property.
“Our four-story mixed use project will include apartments and retail space on one of the least active blocks in Graying on Michigan Avenue,” Steffen said. “It will transform the city, and what’s most important that nobody talks about is the tax base.”
Doug Paulus, the project director for the Grayling Agricultural and Education Center, said Project Rising Tide has moved 20 years in efforts for farm to table planning fruition. The Northern Market, a food hub planned for Grayling, will involve farmers from the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, with a link to distributors for the Eastern Market in Detroit.
“Those little parts just don’t pull together all of the time,” Paulus said.
Now, as part of graduating from the Project Rising Tide program, Grayling officials will serve as mentors for West Branch as they enter the initiative.
“That’s what this is all about, communities helping one another, and that’s what Michiganders do and that’s what we’re great at,” Gov. Snyder said.
Grayling joins Charlotte and River Rouge as graduates.
Schreiner presented a paddle to West Branch Mayor Denise Lawrence to signify the bond between the communities.
“We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” Lawrence said. “We know there is great work to be done, but we’re looking toward the future, and building a stronger foundation for economic success is critical to a healthy and vibrant community. This program will help us build that foundation, and having the guidance of Grayling will ensure we stay the course.”