Cass County needs an economic visionPublished 7:43pm Wednesday, March 27, 2013
It was good to hear Cass County commissioners talking about an economic development strategy at their retreat March 23.
One reality is that 70 percent of residents leave the county for jobs.
Settling for being a bedroom community doesn’t take into account Cass agricultural assets.
Trying to attract a recreational vehicle plant from Elkhart might not make as much sense as recruiting, say, an Iowa firm building farm machinery.
Crucial even to a bedroom community is figuring out how to extend high-speed internet to citizens.
Such a vision also needs to account for another resource, abundant lakes. What do our waterfront communities need or want?
Surrounded to the north by Kalamazoo and to the south by Elkhart, South Bend and Mishawaka and Niles to the west, Cass County has for decades promoted its “best of both worlds” location at the juncture of rural and suburbia.
As commissioners heard from County Administrator Louis Csokasy, “We need to have one overriding vision so when the Economic Development Corp. starts to spend money, we can say, ‘Does that fit the vision?’ Same with the Land Bank or our city and villages. Not what we would ideally like, a castle on a hill, but what it really is.”
“I’m excited. This is a perfect storm of possibilities,” Vice Chair Bernie Williamson of Jefferson Township said.
Four Winds Dowagiac will change the complexion of the M-51 corridor south through Pokagon Township. There are at least two business prospects expected to materialize.
The state has made development money available, but until the county elevates its profile, unifies resources, defines itself and sets a clear course in a very competitive environment, it risks getting left behind.