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Alcoa Howmet – Whitehall, Michigan

Advanced manufacturing providing optimized solutions for improved performance, efficiency and value

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Eagle Alloy, Inc. – Part of the Eagle Group of companies - Muskegon, Michigan

Serving a diverse customer base and utilizing lean manufacturing practices; one of the premier steel foundries in the country

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Alcoa Howmet – Whitehall, Michigan

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Muskegon Area First: Helping Local Businesses Flourish

The Culinary Institute of Michigan - Baker College's world-class caliber culinary learning environment

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Alcoa Howmet – Whitehall, Michigan since 1951

Leading producer of complex investment-cast turbine components for the aerospace and industrial gas turbine industries

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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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An improving job market in Muskegon County

 State analyst: Muskegon County unemployment rate improved to 8.4 percent for March

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Unemployment Benefits.JPGIn this 2010 file photo, a job applicant receives advice on his resume while attending a job fair.

MUSKEGON, MI – Muskegon County’s unemployment rate took a turn for the better in March while the area has steadily added jobs over the last 12 months, according to a state analyst.

The Muskegon County unemployment rate hit 8.4 percent in March, improved from 9.2 percent in February and 9 percent in January, according to the state’s Bureau of Labor Market Information & Strategic Initiatives. It’s also an improvement from 12 months ago in March 2012, when the rate was 9.6 percent.

The bureau’s figures for the Muskegon Metropolitan Statistical Area – which encompasses Muskegon County – also showed the total number of non-agricultural jobs in the area increased by 300 from February to March.

The numbers are not adjusted for seasonal labor, so they are expected to jump in the spring when warmer weather allows people to begin work in areas like construction, tourism or agriculture. But Jim Rhein, a state labor market analyst for the state, said March’s increases outpace any statistical fluctuations.

Long-term the picture is good, too: Over the course of the last 12 months, the area added about 1,500 jobs in several areas.

“We have got seven or eight industry sectors all pointing in the same direction and that’s something you can feel positive about,” Rhein said. 

The only industry sector that showed a decrease in employment was the government, which decreased by 200 jobs over the last 12 months.

“As a whole, it looks fairly favorable,” Rhein said.

Muskegon city also saw an improvement, with its jobless rate dropping to 10.9 percent, down from 11.9 percent in February and 11.7 percent in January. A year ago in March 2012 the city’s unemployment rate was 12.4 percent.

Muskegon County’s unemployment rate of 8.4 percent and the city’s rate of 10.9 percent compare to a statewide rate of 8.8 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate for March is 7.6 percent.

Local jobless rates come from surveys of households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The jobs numbers are based on a separate bureau survey of the area's employers.

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Talking Muskegon's Blue Economy

 Milwaukee has lessons for Muskegon in developing the 'blue economy,' chamber members told

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MUSKEGON, MI – Muskegon’s big Wisconsin "neighbor across Lake Michigan" has taught the community something about waterfront festivals and, based on a presentation Friday, there are potentially more lessons to be learned in Milwaukee.

MuskegonLakeAerial.jpgOne of Muskegon County's greatest assets is Muskegon Lake, one of a few ports in Michigan to support recreational boating, commercial shipping and ferry transportation activities.

Just as Milwaukee’s Summerfest was a model for what Muskegon has created in a series of festivals over the years at Heritage Landing, Wisconsin’s leading community has plenty to teach on branding a community in the “blue economy.”

Instead of just being a beer production capital and home to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Milwaukee in the past decade has created an economic strategy based on its location on Lake Michigan and its freshwater resources, according to John Austin, director of the Michigan Economic Center in Ann Arbor.

Austin was part of a presentation of the “blue economy” – an economic development strategy based on water resources – at Friday’s Business for Breakfast event of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce at the Holiday Inn Muskegon Harbor. Austin spoke along with Al Steinman, director of Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute in Muskegon, and Jonathan Seyferth, an economic developer with Muskegon Area First.

Milwaukee specifically decided to “brand” its water a decade ago. The community used a three-prong approach: Bolstering its water-based businesses, cleaning up and providing access to its urban riverfront and developing water research through its universities, Austin said.

Muskegon is headed down the road Milwaukee has blazed, Seyferth said. It began with the operation of the Muskegon County Wastewater Management System in 1973 and the decades-long redevelopment and restoration of the Muskegon Lake shoreline. Since 2001, Muskegon has been home to the GVSU water institute, which now employs more than 50, generates $3 million in direct spending locally and is expanding with a new field research station now under construction.

BlueEconomyPanel.jpg

“We were both ‘green’ and ‘blue’ before that was cool,” Seyferth said.

The chamber breakfast audience was told about how water-based innovations are being turned into products. Austin pointed to Cascade Engineering in Grand Rapids developing a bio-sand water filter for emerging countries. A GVSU scientist is working on a product that would be used closer to home, Steinman said.

Professor Ryan Thum has done research on genetic testing of invasive plants and came up with a test kit that can be used by lakefront property owners, Steinman said. The kit, which is in the commercialization process, allows property owners to be able to differentiate between native and invasive plants and what kinds of herbicides will remove the unwanted plants, he said.

Muskegon has water assets for all kinds of business opportunities, Seyferth said. Muskegon Area First and other community agencies are working on a marketing campaign to let others know what Muskegon has to offer from its port potential on Muskegon Lake to its public water and wastewater capabilities.

Muskegon County’s four water systems – Montague, Whitehall, Muskegon and Muskegon Heights – have 72 million gallons a day of capacity but right now only 15.5 million gallons a day are being used, according to Seyferth. Likewise, the county’s wastewater plant – an innovative land-based treatment system – has a 43 million gallon a day capacity but only 13 million gallons a day is currently being treated.

“The blue economy comes from the fact that water is part of our identity in this state and in this community,” Steinman said.

How Muskegon begins to tell that “blue economy” story starts Monday night at a community gathering at Watermark 920 Center, 920 Washington Ave. Those working on restoration of Muskegon Lake habitat have a grant to provide “perception research” that will lead to developing the community’s “story.”

That community branding process will begin at 5:30 p.m. The discussion with a community branding consultant from Nashville, Tenn. is open to the public.

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