July - September 2020
Quarterly Economic Development Report

Priority Projects

Gateway to Downtown: Little River Holdings and CL Real Estate presented high level plans to Manistee City Council and the public in September. The project will reshape and invent River Street, and feature a 97,000 square foot boutique hotel, a visitors welcome center, events center, and a business incubator space. Historic elements of existing structures will be retained and designs will honor Manistee’s historic character. The Chamber has been working with the developers on weekly coordination calls, assisting with community communication strategies, actions of support, drafting communications, news releases, and representing the Chamber in the media. Significant work continues with assisting the partners on project goals and timelines.

Lakeshore Hotel Project: In the third quarter an exciting new development presented itself, and the Chamber participated from the beginning to welcome this potential new project on the Lakeshore. Project partners, have a purchase agreement on 101 S. Lakeshore, and have plans for developing a high end hotel with amazing views and unprecedented access to Lake Michigan beaches. The developers held a community stakeholder meeting to solicit input on the potential project, followed by a meeting with Chamber, City, and County Planning. The Chamber is facilitating and leading bi-monthly coordination calls to move the project forward, in addition to working with City and County staff. The coordination calls are productive and appreciated by the developers.

West Shore Community College DowntownConstruction continues on the $5 million project in downtown Manistee. This investment continues to generate interest in downtown properties and show progress in our community. Opening date scheduled for December 1, 2020.  

Retention VisitsThe Chamber performed five virtual retention visits with area business leaders. These retention visits focused on small to medium size manufacturers. These visits are connecting businesses to resources and assistance to build a more resilient sector. We heard a wide range of responses to industry concerns, which included some opportunities for expansion, continued need for skilled labor, supply chain issues, and some adjustment to market demand for products. Two companies were referred to the Manistee Manufacturers Council for potential membership and the benefit of being connected to industrial peers in the community. 

New Manufacturing

Thoroughbred Boat Company (Project Retro Recreation) - Progress on manufacturing design elements and process continues on the artisan boat company startup. Chamber recently toured the complex to witness plans and manufacturing line setup. Components, styling, and final product will be a customer-pleaser in a growing boating market segment. There is a soft release of information on an official Facebook page for Thoroughbred Boat Company, and there is a great deal of excitement in the boating industry about this start-up.  

Industry Targets:

Fricano's Manistee River Restaurant - The Chamber has made significant progress working with a restaurant owner/operator for one of the top priority redevelopment sites in Manistee. Experienced restaurateur Ted Fricano has a purchase agreement on the former Boathouse Restaurant at 440 River Street, and we have assisted him with many elements, helping to make doing business easier in Manistee. There will be elements of tax abatement on an obsolete property, approvals and negotiations for sale of City property, and a transfer of a liquor license. The exciting vision for Fricano’s Manistee River is to connect to the Marina and Riverwalk. This will allow boaters to tie off their craft to have a close choice for a great dining experience. 

Restaurant Recruitment - Working with two owner/operators for potential restaurants in Manistee and Onekama. Follow-up will continue on these opportunities. 

Hollander Housing Development - A developer that came to Manistee for the 2018 Chamber Developer Day has broken ground with initial site preparation activities for a 45-unit housing development.  

Downtown Reinvigoration Plan - The Chamber's work this year to provide additional outside seating and opportunity on River Street was successful. One business reported the creation of 3 jobs and a 30% increase in revenues over 2019 as the result of extra outdoor seating. The Chamber will work with the DDA and City to plan for a similar strategy for next year.  

Upcoming Expansions/Groundbreakings

  • Hollander Housing Development   

Developer Targeting

Developer Day Planning - The Chamber worked on planning towards a May 2021 developer day. Outreach, marketing, and website development will be included. Funding sources are being secured to support this work.  

  • Consumers Energy - The Chamber received $3,000 in grant funding from Consumers Energy that will be used to attract new potential developers for investment in Manistee County. There are multiple platforms being considered and could include Developer Days, Social Media, Website Content, and Direct Mail. 

  • The Opportunity Project - The Chamber will participate in a program from the Census Innovation Lab with funding from US Census Bureau and United States Environmental Protection Agency. Personnel from Columbia University will work with the Economic Development team in Manistee to develop business-facing online tools using open source data. Our goal is to develop tools to attract new business, developers, entrepreneurs, and new population to the area.  

Economic Recovery
Funding for Businesses

Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)
Small Business
Restart Grants

The Chamber scored and made recommendations to Networks Northwest and MEDC on this state grant for small businesses and non-profit organizations. A total of 20 grants have been awarded for a total of $273,000. The Chamber is performing administrative fee for the work on the grant program, which includes monthly reporting.  

Consumers Energy
Grant #2

An additional $25,000 grant from Consumers Energy, will assist the Chamber in establishing a formal slogan and marketing campaign that will incorporate themes of “be open and safe” and “shop and buy local” to promote small business resiliency. The grant will also be used to provide customer service safety and experience training, which will cover the basic tenets of good customer service and how to incorporate recent safety guidelines and best practices into everyday operations.  

Networks Northwest
Innovation Grant

Networks Northwest received an Innovation Grant from MEDC to update economic development information in the region and promote projects within “Growth and Investment” zones. In our area, these include Manistee and surrounding areas (including Filer and Manistee townships) and Onekama Village and Township. The Chamber responded to an RFI this month, providing economic development projects, infrastructure projects, and five future priority projects. In the next several months work will continue on marketing pieces for the county and the priority projects. These are expected to be delivered in October.

Priority Areas
  • Lead Business Retention, Attraction, and Growth
  • Talent/Workforce Development
  • Growing Entrepreneurs and Necessary Career Skills
  • Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
  • Placemaking and Housing Needs
  • Building a Collaborative Environment and Effective Communications
Economic Development Council Members
James Barker, Munson Healthcare Manistee
Stacie Bytwork, Manistee Area Chamber
Jeff Dontz, Manistee County
Dennis McCarthy, Blarney Castle Oil & Propane
Jim Reithel, Martin Marietta, Inc.
Tom St. Dennis, Little River Holdings, LLC
Thad Taylor, City of Manistee
Scott Ward, West Shore Community College
Thank you, Economic Development Investors!
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