2017-06-14 / Editorial

Trend suggests growing stability

The County Press on Sunday published some encouraging news for the citizens and businesses of Lapeer County. Since the low point of The Great Recession in 2009 the county has seen the creation of 3,000 jobs, led by more than 1,500 in the manufacturing sector alone.

The second largest gain in local employment was realized in the accommodation/food service industry, where 700 jobs have been added since 2009.

And the near-term future looks equally bright. Patricia Lucas, executive director of the Lapeer Development Corp. (LDC), says most companies in the county have job openings. Many are high-paying jobs, yet employers are still having a hard time filling positions.

In 2016, the LDC participated in 15 projects worth more than $138 million in new investment in building expansion projects and new machinery to help local manufacturers keep up with the orders for their products, representing the largest annual investment in LDC history. Last year alone more than 200 jobs were created here.

In fact, things are going so well for most manufacturers the county is experiencing a bit of a growth problem. The stock of available large warehouse or manufacturing space is nearly exhausted as buildings have been purchased or leased to accommodate the need for more storage.

The LDC is working with local municipalities in Almont, Dryden, Imlay City, Lapeer and North Branch to develop properties that are shovel-ready so that development may be fast-tracked to attract and retain businesses that have run out of space or are interested in setting up shop in Lapeer County.

The county’s full-throttle economy is poised to welcome nimble-minded developers and investors an opportunity to construct “spec” buildings, something we haven’t seen in a long time. To quote the great line from the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams,” “If you build it, they will come.”

It has taken a little while to come together, but the improving economy in Lapeer County is also bolstered by local educators at the high school level and by the great resources available through the Lapeer County Intermediate School District’s Education and Technology Center in Attica Township as well as through vocational and academic programs available here locally through Baker College and Mott Community College.

In concert with the Thumb Region-Michigan Works office in Lapeer, local industry and businesses today are in a much better place to work with today’s youth and adult workforce to steer people to the professions and vocations that are in demand and where “Help Wanted” signs are posted outside.

Through innovation and outside-the-box thinking, businesses and educators are beginning to effectively connect the dots toward solutions that were elusive to area residents and professionals. Lapeer County for years has held an unusually stubborn unemployment level, typically higher than our neighboring counties. Figuring out why has been a puzzle, but the pieces are starting to come together.

More people and resources have been put to the task to ensure more of our residents — high school graduates and older residents alike — have the means to attain the counseling and skillsets to point them to better and more sustainable employment. For example, in the high schools many counselors and career specialists no longer give students a pass by saying they can do whatever they desire. Instead there’s more of a reality-check, because nowadays with the ever rising costs of secondary education few people can afford to experiment or play the field until they figure it out. Via human resources available locally in Lapeer County as well as sources available online, people today can learn more easily what jobs are out there and what education and vocational training is necessary to land them.

We’re hopeful the positive trends we’re currently experiencing in Lapeer County will continue — namely increased investment and job opportunities in manufacturing, declining unemployment and an uptick in housing values and home sales, as they’re all indicators of a stabilizing and improving economy.

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