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Business climate hot even for July

Published 9:28pm Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July has already been an unusually hot month on the local business scene.

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton visited Dowagiac to see the business center Brian DeLong manages at 415 E. Prairie Ronde St. to fill a big bucket with jobs a drop at a time.

The odds of landing one company to fill the 617,000-square foot former home of Rudy Manufacturing, Sundstrand, Modine and National Copper Products are slim, but there are plenty of start-up businesses which need shared services available, such as a rail spur inside.

The congressman heard of the creative incubator serving on the board of the nine-county Southwest Michigan First in Kalamazoo, which has as its goal creating 100,000 jobs over the next 10 years.

The Pokagon Band’s economic development arm, Mno Bmodsen, is one of those tenants, breaking ground on a gas station and convenience store adjacent to the Four Winds Dowagiac casino.

Further north on M-51, Chuck Wimberley plans a major expansion of his Ford dealership, including a car wash; Honor Credit Union is constructing a new home; and Sandy Acres reopened as Sands of Time antique mall and Club 51.

Downtown, Wood Fire turned 10 with a new owner, Jim Kramer, 2000 Co-Valedictorian Sarah Wilkinson Mathews opened a law office in her hometown, Connie Gray’s Looking Glass is officially welcomed today next to ’79 DUHS graduate Karla Arndt’s Sew Can You Fashion Design School; and Laurie Anne’s became Mud-Luscious with the addition of Michelle Stambaugh’s pottery studio.

Other projects in the pipeline could come to fruition soon.

Postle Extrusion in Cassopolis is investing $12.5 million for an expansion which means 40 new jobs. The company plans a 52,000-square-foot building to house a new extrusion press and vertical wet-coat paint line.

Southwestern Michigan College has a waiting list for living space after building three dorms in four years, a new Student Service Center in the old bookstore, which boosted visibility and traffic to the new Dowagiac Area History Museum in Behnke’s paint and floor covering store, and, in August, completion of the $3 million makeover of the Niles Area Campus in Cass County’s Milton Township.

SMC has doubled the value of its physical plant since 2004.

Taken together, such developments demonstrate considerable confidence in doing business here and the schools are showing tangible improvement, which helps Cass County attract commerce and get back to work after the devastating Great Recession.

The county jobless rate improved from 9 percent in January to 6.2 percent by May.

We hope such gains continue to sizzle as much as the summer weather.


This opinion expresses the views of the editorial board.

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