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Speakers at the Chamber event, from left, are Mayor Charles Brunner, County Executive Tom Hickner, Supt. Michael Dewey, Chamber Chair Brad Kessel and Sohail Qamar, master of ceremonies.

Region "Coming Alive" Economically, Says Brad Kessel at Chamber Event

Dow Corning Solar Research Center, More GM PowerTrain "Good News" Seen

February 12, 2010       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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"This region is coming alive and my hope is that it will lead the State of Michigan's economic rebirth."

That was the stirring comment of Brad Kessel, executive vice president of Independent Bank and chairman of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, at the "State of the Community" luncheon Friday.

Other speakers were Sohail Qamar, of Carbone of America, who introduced Mr. Kessel as well as County Executive Thomas L. Hickner, Bay City Mayor Charles Brunner, Bay-Arenac ISD Supt. Michael Dewey and Chamber President Michael Seward.

Mayor Brunner, citing a $37 million investment in the local General Motors PowerTrain plant to produce parts for the Chevy Volt, said GM officials recently have "given assurances there is more good news to come."

Mr. Kessel ticked off an impressive list of announced developments in the Great Lakes Bay Region that promise to bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment here in the next few years.

He cited "tremendous anchor employers" such as Dow Corning and the Dow Chemical Co. and Michigan Sugar as a "segment that tends to flourish when others falter."

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The Chamber chair also cited local manufacturing in aerospace and defense as well as alternative energy, giving us needed economic diversity.

The last item on his list, American Solar Power Innovation and Research Enterprise, or ASPIRE, has been outlined in a draft proposal to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) for a separate nonprofit research organization.

The proposed research facility would be located on or near the Dow Corning corporate campus, located near the US-10-M-47 intersection in Williams Township, southwest Bay County.

Last summer Dow Corning Corp. Chairman, President and CEO Stephanie A. Burns met with President Obama at the White House to discuss how businesses are innovating to create a green economy and stimulate job growth in the U.S.

Ms. Burns was invited in recognition of the leadership role of Dow Corning in the solar energy field.

More than $5 billion in solar investments have been announced by the company and its joint ventures at the Hemlock Semiconductor Group.

Goal of the firm is to research and develop as well as to expand production of materials critical to solar cell manufacturing, solar module assembly and installation.

Mr. Kessel noted that local real estate prices have fallen 48 percent but appear to have bottomed. He also said sales are up 10 percent and banks are lending and interest rates are at record lows although demand for loans is not yet strong.

Mr. Hickner noted the county has received the second largest stimulus grant award in the state, $587,853, for energy efficiency, including wind turbines at the juvenile home and civic arena.

"We are very proud that over the last 17 years every county budget has been balanced with no increase in property taxes," the county executive said.

City, county and township officials must implement a "consensus agenda" for further cooperation and consolidation of services, he said. He pushed for a web portal modeled after the MEDC portal providing streamlined governmental interaction and a single entry point for all business needs.

Mr. Dewey, representing all seven school districts in the county, said schools, "not all that different from our colleagues in business," are sharing professional staff and collaborating in transportation and other areas to deal with difficult times.

There are 450 students in adult education at the ISD along with about 300 special needs students. The Imagination Library has distributed 280,000 books to 4,400 students, he said, to spark early literacy.

He noted the involvement of the Bay Area Community Foundation in developing the Bay Commitment, a scholarship program, and that enrollment at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University are at record highs.


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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
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