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MCABI Working On Plans For Expansion

Issue Date: May 3, 2018

For some months, in fact several years, Marinette County Association for Business and Industry (MCABI) has been making plans to recreate itself into a larger organization that can provide expanded economic development services for Marinette County.

They are in the process of completing work on their Wisconsin Maritime Center of Excellence (WMCOE), a building they constructed in the City of Marinette with the help of a $5 million state grant. That building currently houses the MCABI office is intended to serve as a business incubator; provide "maker space" for fledgling small manufacturers; provide secure office space for Navy personnel affiliated with the Marinette Marine ship building program, and more. Its first major tenant will be the Bellin Clinic for Marinette Marine employees.

An MCABI committee headed by Michael Meade, along with retiring Administrator Ann Hartnell, newly hired Administrator Robert Pontius, and professional consultants, has been revising by-laws and planning an expanded organizational structure, with input from the entire MCBI Board of Directors and Marinette County Administrator John LeFebvre.

At the board of directors meeting on Thursday, April 26, at Newingham's Supper Club in Wausaukee, Pontius and MCABI Board Chair John Deschane laid out the latest draft version of the reorganization/expansion plan and outlined the timetable for potential adoption. Plans are to have preliminary discussions in early May with Marinette County Board's newly reorganized Development Committee, and bring a preliminary draft to County Board on Tuesday, May 29.

Then, after making whatever revisions may be necessary, they expect to go through the committee process again, and have a final draft for County Board consideration on Tuesday, June 26 and then anticipated approval by the MCABI board on Thursday, June 28.

If approved, implementation would take place with the addition of staff in the third and fourth quarters of this year.

The business portion of the MCABI board meeting on April 26 preceded a recognition and farewell dinner for Hartnell, who has retired from her post as administrator, for former Marinette County Board chair and current Niagara Mayor George M. Bousley, who retired from the MCABI board a few months ago after serving as its chair for many years, and retired Marinette County Supervisors Fred Meintz and Joe Policello, who had been active members of the MCABI board..

The MCABI Value Proposition states that the organization will advance the prosperity of Marinette County by supporting the economic, commercial, industrial, tourism and educational interests of the area. However, at least temporarily, the tourism portion of those services has been put on hold. Marinette County has contracted with the City of Marinette for tourism promotion services, at least until the end of 2018.

Stated goals are to "facilitate retention and expansion of existing businesses and industries in the county; operate the WMCOE business and industrial incubator, assisting new business startups and/or expansions; cooperate with regional and local entities in the business of economic development; assist municipalities with community development activities, collaborate with the educational community at all levels to develop a prepared workforce base, and identify, promote and link the county's unique assets to help business and industry prosper and compete in regional, national and international markets."

Currently MCABI staff includes a full time Executive Director (Pontius), an assistant, and a part-time manager for the WMCOE.

With the new plan, with a total estimated personnel cost of $500,500 a year, there would be in addition a full time executive assistant/finance person as support staff, and a full time manager for the WMCOE in the third quarter of 2018.

In the fourth quarter of 2018 they would add a Director of New Business Development, a Director of Business Retention and Expansion, and an executive assistant to work with both of them.

The Director of New Business Development would maintain a list of available development properties and support, pursue new businesses, marketing and grants, assist municipalities in creating and developing industrial parks and provide entrepreneurial support.

The Director of Business Retention and Expansion would assist in accessing funding sources, including revolving loan funds, help businesses with planning and administration, work with workforce development and training, and advise and assist struggling and expanding businesses.

Pontius said eventually additional office space will be needed in addition to the WMCOE building, and a strong case can be made for putting that office in a central location in the county, "to send a strong message that we serve the whole county, not just the City of Marinette." He said they have discussed the benefit of him holding office hours now in various areas of the county, to become more visible and available to everyone.

Speaking further on the expansion plans, he said they will set goals and measure accomplishments in terms of increases in sales tax collections, equalized values, percentage of occupancy and numbers of jobs.

He has met with LeFebvre in regard to the proposals, and one suggestion is for having one administrative assistant at the start to serve all four administrators at one central location.

Motion to accept the plan and present it to the county's Economic Development Committee was approved without dissent.

Director Mike Meade presented the proposed by law changes, but the revisions were sent back to committee. Deschane said the county wants them to dig deeper, for example specify what are the standing committees and their duties. At Pontius' suggestion, LeFebvre will be invited to the next By-Laws Committee meeting. Pontius said LeFebvre had provided a copy of the Oconto County Economic Development Corporation bylaws for reference.

Pontius reported they hoped to get an occupancy permit the following day for a new tenant in the MCOE building. Building Director Mary Paitrick said they now have three and four phase power to sections of the building. Pontius said the final report on the housing study being done by Bay Lakes Regional planning should be completed soon.

Two areas in Marinette County have been identified as state opportunity zones - one in Crivitz and one in Marinette.

"We (Crivitz) didn't ask for this by the way," interjected Deschane, who is Crivitz Village President.

Deschane noted that due to a change in Marinette County committee structure, Marinette County Supervisor Shirley Kaufman, who had served on the MCABI Board for several years as chair of the County Board's Economic Development and Tourism Committee, will no longer have that position. He said there is a vacancy for a member at large position and he would like to appoint Kaufman. "She's interested and she has been a good member of this board," Deschane commented.

Early in the meeting Meade was reappointed for another term on the MCABI Board.

After some explanations of bills on the accounts payable list by Administrative assistant Theresa O'Brien, the board approved payment. There was a tab for some unrecognized payroll liability dating from 2015 and 2016. Marketing efforts for the month had mostly been aimed at promoting the web site, O'Brien said.

Before the business meeting concluded, Deschane commented that a prime focus of MCABI in coming months will be work on getting trainable employees trained, and determining how to get local young people to stay in this area and how to attract others to move here. The next MCABI meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24 at Crivitz High School.

The Oversight Committee for the WMCOE will meet at 1 p.m. Friday, May 4 at the MCOE building, 1320 Main Street, Marinette. Agenda includes March financial reports, a facility walk-through report, approval of a gas sub meter contractor, a flexible agreement with co-working company, facility marketing, equipment for Makerspace, plus the facility coordinator's report. There is also opportunity for public comment from committee members and audience.


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