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Holiday Inn purchase well received

Parkland Development, Jon Rooks Holiday Inn Muskegon Harbor purchase postively received

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MUSKEGON, MI – The reaction to last week’s blockbuster news that West Michigan’s Parkland Development Corp.’s has purchased and is now operating the downtown Holiday Inn Muskegon Harbor has been well received.

Parkland’s Jon Rooks made another significant development move in downtown Muskegon with the purchase of Muskegon County’s leading full-service hotel. Parkland and Rooks also own the nearby Shoreline Inn and Conference Center on Muskegon Lake.

The two properties together have 340 rooms and more than 12,000 square feet of meeting space. Rooks said Parkland will operate the two downtown hotels to better attract convention and meeting business to Muskegon County.

RobertLukens.JPGBob Lukens

“I think it is great for the community to have these two hotels under the same management,” said Muskegon County Community Development Director Bob Lukens, who oversees the Muskegon County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Lukens and Rooks both said the hotel ownership and the county tourism marketing effort will be coordinated to reach out to new organizations and businesses who may find Muskegon an attractive meeting destination. Convention and meeting business usually occurs in the off-summer seasons, times the county is looking to increase tourism activity, Lukens said.

“This will be a real advantage in attracting new business to Muskegon for meetings and conferences,” Lukens said. “The new owners will improve this property. Downtown Muskegon is seeing a lot of development this year. It is good to see things happening.”

Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Larsen said that coordination of all of the downtown meeting and conference facilities is needed for Muskegon County to attract more business.

“I hope Jon Rooks will expand or rework the current facilities that he has along with partnerships with the L.C. Walker Arena and Frauenthal Theater,” Larsen said. “He is a very creative owner and I am looking forward to something unique in terms of the interior of the Holiday Inn and service delivery. It is very much needed.”

Larsen said the previous owners were well respected in the hotel industry but that local ownership of the Holiday Inn will be a significant factor. Parkland purchased the Holiday Inn Muskegon Harbor June 19 from an investor group led by Akram Namou of Southfield, Mich., who owns many hotels and motels in Southeast Michigan. A purchase price was not disclosed.

CindyLarsen.jpgCindy Larsen

“Now we will get the extra attention to service and detail when the ownership is local,” Larsen said. “This is another indication of the change, the huge transformation in business ownership and strategy that is ongoing. It is an indicator that the local economy is coming back.”

MLive reader midi13 found the Parkland purchase of the Holiday Inn a positive.

So excited to have local ownership of the Holiday Inn! It was definitely in decline. I think Mr. Rooks will do a fine job of upgrading it, after seeing some of his other projects. Good luck to him, sounds like he has his hands full!

Also supportive of the Parkland move was Muskegon County Commissioner Bob Scolnik, who spoke glowingly of the move and the opportunities it creates on his Facebook page.

Parkland and Rooks not only own the Shoreline Inn and now the Holiday Inn in downtown Muskegon but have three other projects in various stages of development. The Holiday Inn acquisition could redirect Parkland’s downtown strategies, including renewed interest in a Muskegon convention center.

As progress continues on the Terrace Point Landing residential subdivision on Muskegon Lake adjacent to the Shoreline Inn and the redevelopment of the city of Muskegon former central fire station for offices, Rooks and Parkland continue to struggle in developing the former Comerica Bank building into the HighPoint Flats apartments.

Rooks suggested that instead of renovating the 10-story former bank building into market rate apartments, Parkland may tear the old building down and develop a new apartment building. Reconfiguring the 1916 building for apartments might not be practical but he’d like to save the structure if it is feasible, Rooks said.

The bank tower on West Western Avenue was one of five historic structures saved in the central business district with the demolition of the former Muskegon Mall. MLive reader MKGlover’s comments show the controversy that is created when discussing demolition of the bank tower.

Rooks is betraying the community if he plans to tear that building down. In case anyone forgot, a lengthy process was conducted to determine which buildings form the Muskegon Mall had the most potential to be redeveloped. I take issue with how that determination was made, as there were many more with merit, but nonetheless, the five that were saved were saved for a reason. The deal Rooks recieved from the DMDC was based on him rehabilitating that property, not demolishing it. Color me outraged if he tries to pull this over on the community.

What's your reaction to the Holiday Inn sale and direction of downtown Muskegon redevelopment? Leave your comments below.

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Muskegon Co. unemployment rate below state average by more than a half percent

 

Muskegon County unemployment drops to 8.1 percent for April; seasonal drop lower than analysts expected

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Economy_2.JPGIn this file photo, Lilian Dacanay waits to speak with a prospective employer during a career fair.

MUSKEGON, MI – The Muskegon County unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 percent in April, down a fraction of a percentage point from one month ago.

The figures were recently released by the state’s Bureau of Labor Market Information & Strategic Initiatives.

The March jobless rate for the Muskegon Metropolitan Statistical Area – which encompasses Muskegon County – was 8.4 percent in March, and was 8.5 percent 12 months ago, April 2012.

The total number of non-farm jobs in the county increased to 61,800, up several hundred from March 2013, and April 2012, when the number was 60,400.

“That’s actually a little less than we expected,” said Jim Rhein, a labor market analyst for the state. “We didn’t get the seasonal trend we thought we would.”

The bureau’s numbers aren’t adjusted for seasonal work, and are expected to jump in the spring, when warmer weather allows construction work to begin and makes tourism activities more attractive.

Rhein said the numbers may be lagging because poor weather in April which could have delayed the start of seasonal jobs.

“We will see what happens (next),” he said. “Sometimes it is made up for by the next month.”

Muskegon County’s unemployment rate of 8.1 percent compares to a state rate of 8.8 percent and a U.S. rate of 7.6 percent.

Figures for the city of Muskegon were not immediately available.

Local jobless rates come from surveys of households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, and don’t reflect the percentage of people applying for jobless benefits. The jobs numbers are based on a separate bureau survey of the area's employers.

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City of Muskegon in Solid Financial Condition

 City of Muskegon defies state perceptions and produces another stable budget for 2014

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MUSKEGON, MI – Too many people from across the state of Michigan tend to lump Muskegon in with financially-suffering cities such as Ecorse, Pontiac, Flint, River Rouge and Benton Harbor.

MuskegonCityHall.jpgMuskegon City Hall has 227 full-time employees, down from 309 a decade ago.

Those communities have been forced to accept an emergency financial manager to help pull them out of financial turmoil. Unlike other older cities with significant minority populations, the city of Muskegon not only has kept an emergency financial manager off its doorstep buthas received statewide recognition for financial stability and fiscal accountability.

That solid financial condition is again seen in the city of Muskegon’s proposed fiscal year 2014 budget, which has been presented to the Muskegon City Commission. Commissioners will hear a presentation from City Manager Bryon Mazade and Finance Director Tim Paul at Monday’s commission work session.

“The proposed 2013-14 budget serves as a solid spending plan for the city,” Mazade wrote in his last budget message to the commission. Mazade will retire Oct. 1 after nearly 20 years heading the city.

The budget does not include any major cuts such as past years when curbside recycling services were eliminated, the leisure services department axed, senior transit services cut and city building inspections privatized.

“However, it does not address many city needs and includes operating deficit spending in some funds,” Mazade said. “It should be known that there are several unknown and potential negative factors that could affect this spending plan.”

The city’s proposed general fund is $23.7 million for 2013-14, the fiscal year that begins July 1. That is a $592,000 deficit that would bring the city’s general fund balance down to $4.9 million at the end of the next fiscal year, according to the proposed city budget.

However, city residents would not see a property tax rate increase next fiscal year but would receive a 10-percent increase in water rates while seeing no increase in sewer rates.

The city spending plan eliminates a half dozen positions, all of which remain vacant. That brings the city’s full-time positions to 227 with a continuation of 108 police and fire positions.

Yet, Mazade and Paul see issues such as continued burdens of legacy costs from employee retirement and health care plans, bond obligations for the Harbor 31 (Edison Landing) Smartzone project that will cost the city $160,000 this coming year but more in the future, the uncertainty of state shared revenue, four major union contracts due at the end of the year and continued property tax reductions.

The city’s revenues have stabilized but are still down 7.3 percent from a 2009, the proposed budget shows. The city’s property tax revenues are down 11.9 percent from 2009 mainly due to the declining value of the B.C. Cobb coal power plant, which is anticipated to be shut down in 2015.

But the city’s income tax continues a nice rebound since the Great Recession increasing 2.7 percent since 2009, the city budget shows.

Muskegon is in the envious position of having its legacy costs under control for now. The city will fully fund its pension and retirement accounts in 2013-14 and actually has seen a drop in the cost of retiree health care.

Yet, at this spending rate and with projected future revenues, the city would spend down its current fund balance by 2018 if nothing changes on the expected revenue and spending sides of the budget. Current deficit spending is expected to rise above $1 million a year beginning in 2015.

Other highlights of the budget include:

• The city will receive a one-time $313,000 dividend payment from the Michigan Municipal Risk Authority that provides the city’s insurance. The funds will be used to partially pay for a new $550,000 fire pump truck.

• The city will continue to carry a $1.7 million budget stabilization fund.

• The state’s elimination of the personal property tax would only cost Muskegon $70,000 a year if voters approve a revenue replacement program on the 2014 budget.

• The city continues to support economic development with a $45,600 contribution to Muskegon Area First and a $79,249 contribution to Downtown Muskegon Now.

Following the commission work session on the budget Monday, citizens will have an opportunity to comment on the budget at a public hearing set for Tuesday, June 11 at the commission’s regular meeting. Commissioners meet at 5:30 p.m. in the commission chambers of city hall, 933 Terrace.

The commission must adopt the budget by July 1 and is expected to take a final vote on the 2013-14 spending plan at its June 25 meeting.

Here is a link to a copy of the city's 2013-14 budget. A copy of the budget is on file with the city clerk and at Hackley District Library.

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Taste of Muskegon on Fox 17

Taste of Muskegon is right around the corner - June 14 and 15. The event was highlighted on Fox 17's Morning News this weekend. Follow the link for the full interview.  

http://fox17online.com/2013/06/01/come-and-get-hungry-at-taste-of-muskegon/#axzz2UwpbUN79

   

Michigan Energy + Technology Center formed

Job creation in Muskegon and Michigan is the goal of new energy center partnership, members say

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MUSKEGON, MI – The announcement from a Chicago wind industry conference Monday of a budding partnership to develop the alternative energy industry in Muskegon and across the state is about one thing: Jobs.

COBB SEAWALL.jpgA 728-foot-long freighter is shown offloading coal at the B.C. Cobb shipping channel. The dock is a major asset for the Port of Muskegon's future, company officials and economic developers said.

The new Michigan Energy + Technology Center formed by Consumers Energy, Rockford Berge and a number of Michigan alternative energy companies in conjunction with Michigan State University has the potential to be a job creator.

“It is all about creating jobs and economic growth in Muskegon and in the entire state of Michigan,” said Consumers Energy spokesman Dennis Marvin, who works in the Jackson-based public utility’s new generation division. “We are pleased with the great potential that METC has to offer.”

METC – a consortium of companies mainly from West Michigan – began more than a year a half ago. The companies are gathering forces to best put to use “homegrown” assets in Michigan from the logistics resources of Muskegon’s port to engineering and advanced manufacturing capabilities in West Michigan and other parts of the state, Marvin said.

Michigan State University’s involvement through its Business-CONNECT program hopes to get METC companies involved with professors and researchers in the areas of composite materials, logistics and advanced energy storage devices, among others. The collaborative is creating METC@MSU, a virtual clean technology and logistics research center initially managed over the Internet.

“In the areas of advanced manufacturing and logistics, we hope to bring new entrepreneurs forward coming out of the ideas created at the MSU center,” Marvin said.

The METC initiative, which includes work on developing Muskegon’s port infrastructure on Muskegon Lake, mirrors other work going on to develop the Port of Muskegon. METC hopes to market the port as “43 Degrees North@Muskegon,” in reference to the latitude coordinate of Muskegon.

Cargo ship Amstelborg arrives in Muskegon
EnlargeThe 462-foot Amstelborg cargo ship arrives in Muskegon late Wednesday morning, October 3, 2012 with a shipment of wind turbine blades. The Dutch registered and German owned and operated cargo ship was transporting 31 wind turbine blades to the Mart Dock in downtown Muskegon. Specialized transport companies will deliver loads of blades and tower sections to the Beebe Community Wind Farm being constructed near Ithaca south of Mount Pleasant and north of Lansing in Gratiot County. Photo available for sale please contact Ken Stevens at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if interested.Cargo ship Amstelborg arrives in Muskegon gallery (21 photos)
Muskegon County has led a Port Advisory Committee that has brought together government officials from the county and city of Muskegon to work with Muskegon Lake stakeholders, including property owners and those operating out of Muskegon’s port. Both Sand Products Corp., which operates the Mart Dock, and Verplank Trucking Co., which has multiple Muskegon Lake docks for construction materials, are members of the METC group.

“I think we are all on the same page with this as the METC announcement is very exciting,” said County Commissioner Terry Sabo, chairman of the Muskegon County Public Works Board and head of the Port Advisory Committee. “We are building a base in which we all will work toward creating Muskegon as the state’s premiere deep-water port.”

County and city officials are excited to see Consumer Energy become proactive in exploring possible uses of the B.C. Cobb Generating Plant on the east end of Muskegon Lake, a coal-fired power plant targeted to be “mothballed” at the beginning of 2015. Consumers Energy has offered the plant’s 1,800-foot long coal dock – rebuilt in 2008 at a cost of $11 million – to enhance Muskegon port operations even before a decision is made to close the plant.

“We have told METC and the community that we have committed the B.C. Cobb dock,” Marvin said. “We are happy to put our port in play for expansion of the Port of Muskegon. We now only receive three shipments of coal on the dock a month. It can be used for other things.”

Cathy Brubaker-Clarke, the city of Muskegon economic development and planning director, said METC offers Consumers and the community potential redevelopment opportunities for the B.C. Cobb plant, which is the largest taxpayer in Muskegon County and a critical part of the city’s taxbase.

“It would be nice that we would have something ready to go on that site if Consumers decided to close it out,” Brubaker-Clarke said. “So, it is huge to have Consumers Energy involved at this point. I think we are going to see something happen.”

Also involved in port development in Muskegon is the new West Michigan Economic Partnership, which is Kent and Muskegon counties' collaboration under the Next Michigan Initiative. Muskegon’s involvement in the partnership – designed to market and provide state incentives to targeted industrial properties in the two counties – is providing the deep-water port capabilities for the initiative.

“We haven’t seen any specifics come out of the METC plan but I think their next step needs to be establishing a presence with an office in our community,” said Ed Garner, president of Muskegon Area First – the county’s economic development agency. “There are potential equipment manufacturers in the wind industry that can use the port along with agriculture and other heavy equipment. I think we will be seeing agricultural products shipped out of the port next.”

The long-term goal is to create manufacturing facilities on the east end of the lake that can take advantage of lake-based transportation of their products and raw materials, Garner said. There is more than one potential manufacturer contemplating operations in the zone the city of Muskegon has created for port operations, which has been expanded to include certain types of manufacturing, local economic developers said.

“On the government level, our focus is about creating jobs,” Sabo said. “We want to promote economic development and good use of our port facilities. METC is another step in the right direction.”

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