January-March 2020
Quarterly Economic Development Report

Director's Message
Greetings. This quarterly report looks different from our past reports. We not only have focused on moving economic development forward, but our work now includes an element
of adaptive management and response to assist our existing businesses through difficult times. Work load shifted in
mid-March to include understanding and communicating disaster assistance information, facilitating programming to provide stopgap assistance, and providing expertise and counseling to businesses.  

In terms of dealing with this public health and economic disaster, there will be three phases for businesses: 1. Survive; 2. Revive; and, 3. Thrive. We are hopefully coming to the end of the “Survive” phase. During this phase, businesses will do whatever they need to do to make it to the other side of being closed, i.e. applying for loans and unemployment. The Chamber’s team has been focused on getting business leaders through this phase. The numbers in this report will reflect that effort.  

The focus now turns towards the next two phases which are to revive our businesses, helping them adapt to new standards, and create a plan to thrive. These periods demand strong leadership and clear-eyed observation of the new realities of changes in how people travel, consume goods, and make decisions. New opportunities will require that we move forward with a balance of economic recovery and public health considerations.   The economic development priorities that we created, and that you support, will be important moving forward. 

Thank you for your continued support and collaboration.  
Priority Projects

Retention Visits : Eight in-person retention visits occurred before social distancing requirements. Scheduled appointments were postponed, but our outreach increased by phone, social media, and website communications to deliver COVID-19 related assistance to businesses.   

Gateway to Downtown : Organized meetings
with state agency personnel and Little River Holdings to assist with brownfields,
transportation, and potential funding programs. Participated in additional phone meetings with state/federal officials and others
on project strategy and planning.  

Gateway to North :   Initiated a discussion with Manistee Township officials, in regard to the importance of the project for economic development and the need to work together.   

West Shore Community College Downtown : Support during this quarter
included assistance with potential tenants
and the concept of the one-stop economic development center. WSCC is expecting to
begin construction soon on the project. 

New Manufacturing

Project Retro Recreation - Facilitated a tour
for company officials of the WSCC Technology Center. Discussed and worked on communications strategy. Followed up with a revision of strategy after COVID-19 impact.

Project Torch - Organized and facilitated
property showing for prospective businesses
to relocate pre-COVID. Business is still
exploring post-COVID.

Industry Targets

Renaissance Park - After a referral from a realtor, assisted a business considering the business park. Work included research on
road designations, utilities, and to meet with
Manistee Township on the need for incentives.  

Senior Housing Project - Assisted project advancement with an analysis of industrial park businesses to address MSHDA concerns over proximity and safety.  

Boathouse Restaurant - Toured the priority redevelopment site at 440 W. River. Pursued multiple engagements on potential buyer/operators.  

Restaurants Recruitment - Created a list of targets for broader attraction efforts at multiple sites/locations, and began recruitment pitches. 
Notable Advances

Economic Recovery Efforts (COVID-19)
  • March 17 marks delineation of economic response and recovery efforts
  • Broad business contact and strategies created to assist businesses with response and planning. 
  • 3- Email-blasts created and sent to 3,390 contacts
  • 5 - E-Newsletters created and sent to 5,531 with an average open rate of 40.9%
  • 22 - Restaurants received targeted e-blast for unemployment insurance guidelines
  • Created & sent an Economic Recovery/Assistance Survey
  • Advocacy efforts include food service license fees and assistance with essential infrastructure industries in the area.


Michigan Small Business
Relief Fund

MEDC provided funding and guidelines to the regional economic development organization (EDO), Networks Northwest, to stopgap business losses from executive orders. The Chamber scored grant and loan applications that were allocated to Manistee County. A total of $30,000 of grants and one $50,000 loan were possible. 

Extensive communications were used to announce the opportunity, including email, social media, websites, and traditional media. The grant application period was open for one week and closed on Friday, April 3, 2020. 

65 applications were received requesting nearly $1.3 million.
Chamber recommended the 6
top-scoring and eligible recipients
at $5,000 each: Bluefish Kitchen +Bar, The Historic Vogue Theatre, Kellie’s Hallmark, Snyder Shoes, China Buffet, The Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts. One loan recipient has been recommended to MEDC for follow-up and approval. 

Analysis of financials submitted from
58 complete applications show:

  • Total forecast losses from
Mid-March through September: 
$12.3 million
  • Average projected loss per business: $212,300
  • Total 2019 annual revenues: $27.3 million
  • Average annual revenues per business: $470,400
  • 2020 projected losses/2019 revenues: 45%
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
Sarah Anderson, Iron Fish Distillery
James Barker, Munson Healthcare Manistee
Stacie Bytwork, Manistee Area Chamber
Jeff Dontz, Manistee County Commissioner
Dennis McCarthy, Blarney Castle Oil
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!