Berrien County joins regional economic development group
ST. JOSEPH — In an effort to attract new businesses to southwest Michigan, Berrien County and two other local economic development organizations are joining the Michiana Partnership.
On Thursday, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously approve the county’s move to join Michiana Partnership, which is a collaboration of the economic development partners from Elkhart, Kosciusko, Marshall, Fulton and St. Joseph counties in northern Indiana.
The Niles-based Southwestern Michigan Economic Growth Alliance (SMEGA) and Benton Harbor-based Cornerstone Alliance are also joining Michiana Partnership under a joint agreement with Berrien County.
The three entities will split the annual membership cost of $40,000 with the county paying $20,000, Cornerstone Alliance paying $15,000 and SMEGA paying $5,000.
They will all share a single vote on the Michiana Partnership’s decision-making board.
Dan Fette, the community development director for Berrien County, said joining Michiana Partnership would allow Berrien County to become part of the overall region that the partnership markets for business attraction and recruitment.
“I am happy that we are joining this,” Fette said. “I think it will provide many greater opportunities for business attraction here in Berrien County that we otherwise wouldn’t have. It looks like it will be a very beneficial thing for the county as a whole.”
Fette said while Berrien County was associated with Michiana Partnership years ago, it was never been a formal member until now.
He said the partnership holds monthly meetings where members discuss marketing efforts, budgets and other economic development matters.
“It gets us more opportunities for business leads for companies that are looking to locate into the area,” Fette said. “These are companies that right now might have connections to (Michiana Partnership) but are completely shut off from us in southwest Michigan because we aren’t part of their overall marketing efforts. This gives us an opportunity to get involved in that.”
Fette also said the move would help make Michiana an identifiable economic region, like the Chicago to Milwaukee corridor or the Detroit/Pontiac region.
“When we are all working as small individual groups either on a county level or a local level it is impossible to create that kind of marketing identity or presence,” he said.