John P. O'Brien, secretary of the Monitor Township DDA, introduces a public meeting on growth issues
Monitor Industrial Park Expansion Supported
Boards, Public Hear Experts Explain DDA Operations
December 16, 2002
By: Dave Rogers
Proposed expansion of the Monitor Township Downtown Development Authority (DDA)at Valley Center Technology Park (VCTP) received strong support of consultant David Nicholson of McKenna & Associates at a public informational meeting on DDAs on Monday, Dec. 16, at the township hall.
"It makes good sense to continue and expand the DDA and use local tax dollars for improvement and providing additional services to township residents," said Nicholson. "It also creates synergy in the industrialcommunity."
The meeting, tagged "Understanding the Downtown Development Authority," attracted members of the township board, planning commission and DDA as well as about 30 interested citizens. The meeting was planned during discussions prior toa vote in the November general election on a referendum on a building height restriction.
Township trustee Richard Behmlander welcomed officials of the Bay County Growth Alliance who also attended the meeting with the comment: "It's about time everybody got together to talk about the DDA."
Another speaker was Joe Borgstrom of the Michigan Economic Development Commission, who said: "DDAs are wonderful tools. They are completely locally controlled. The state looks very favorably on them."
In response to a question from the audience about what would happen if there was no industry in a community, Nicholson said: "All the money would go to public safety, including police and fire, as well as trash pickup, and the community would have to increase taxes or cut services." Only a few communities in the state with high home valuations, including Grosse Pointe and Bloomfield Hills, can support services without industry, Nicholson noted.
Various speakers noted how a $250,000 total tax valuation in the Valley Center Technology Park area has grown to $18.3 million in 2002. An increase in the VCTP of 171 percent has been recorded since 1994 when the tax base of the DDA was $6.7 million, they noted.
Major benefits of the Monitor DDA were cited as new jobs. In 1998 jobs created in the DDA included 672 positions. By 2002, jobs created had increased to 924 positions, a 37.5 percent increase in four years.
"That's pretty impressive; that's the kind of growth in the local economy you want to see happen," said Nicholson, adding: "These jobs also provide a multiplier effect with each dollar being spent several times as an added benefit to one base economic job."
The Valley Center Technology Park, the primary focusof the Monitor DDA, was called "the jewel in the crown" of economic development in Bay County by Warren Sinke, township trustee and former supervisor for 12 years.
Trustee William Kramer and others noted that the township "picked up the pieces" when the original plans for an industrial park in Monitor were unsuccessful in the 1980s. "Ultimately this has borne fruit for the community," said Nicholson.
Cliff Van Dyke, of the Bay County Growth Alliance, said tax increment financing plans for the park are scheduled to continue until 2010, but may end in 2007 when the current development plan is completed. Some 25 percent of "captured" township taxes are to be returned under a recent agreement with the township board, he said. Van Dyke notedthat the "captured" township taxes amount to about $16,000 per year while county taxes captured are about $160,000 a year. School district taxes are no longer captured by the DDA, under terms of state law. The tax capture will cease at the end of the development project when all improvements in the DDA are paid off. An early payoff is a possibility, Borgstrom noted.
Monitor was praised for continuing cooperation with the county. Nicholson contrasted that cooperation with the situation in Williams Township where a breakdown in communications resulted in a lack of county commission cooperation and a reduction in the amount of taxes able to be captured in the DDA. "The county decided not to participate and that took a large chunk," the consultant noted.
Several speakers commented that the Monitor development is crucial to growth in Bay County, where the rise in state equalized valuation is less than half the state average growth and population is declining and aging. Cuts in county services now being projected would not have been necessary had SEV growth been another percent higher, it was noted.