Business investors have interest in Alpena

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Jim Klarich, back row left, accepts a $5,000 check for Target Alpena from the staff at Chemical Bank. Klarich said there is a lot of interest from businesses considering developing in Alpena.

ALPENA — Economic development takes time and much of the work is done behind the scenes for years before a project comes to light. In Alpena there are new stores and restaurants open periodically, but what is taking place out of the public’s eye currently could bear fruit eventually.

Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Jim Klarich said interest from business investors and entrepreneurs in Alpena is high. He said he has been in communications with companies and there is significant discussions going on that the public isn’t aware of yet.

He said one of the larger projects being worked on is the possible land swap between Alpena Public School and TBO Development Company. The school will transfer ownership of the bus garage on M-32 in exchange for a new garage being built. TBO recently completed construction of a strip mall in Gaylord and has interest in possibly doing something similar in Alpena.

“It is progressing extremely slow, but the interest is still there,” Klarich said. “There are a lot of moving parts to complicated deals like that and a lot of details to sort through, but the interest is still there.”

Klarich said a deal has been reached for a piece of property on Commerce Drive and interest in the former Alpena Power Company property on Thunder Bay River downtown is still attractive to some developers. The property is now owned by Target Alpena and Klarich said mixed-use development that features a blend of businesses on the bottom level and condos or apartments in the upper ones would be ideal. He said the chamber, Target and the city would work hard to have plans that fit a developers wants and needs.

“We have been pushing that property very hard and getting interest. That waterfront has a lot of appeal,” Klarich said. “We have the ability to accommodate in a design outdoor seating areas, access to the water and of course parking.”

Klarich said there have been some inquiries made about the former Kmart building on US-23 South. He said it is likely that any project that takes place there would require the building being split up into sections and multiple businesses moved into it. Klarich said before money would be spent to do any modifications, the owner of the building would likely want a lease agreement in place.

“We would need two, three or four, large tenants to occupy that entire facility,” he said. “You would want to have deals in place ahead of time before doing build-out on it. It is lining up all of those things to happen at the same time that has proven a little difficult.”

A week after the announcement that Holiday Inn Express was being built in Alpena, there also was one for construction of a Fairfield Inn and Suite by Marriott to be built on US-23 North next to Dean Arbour Ford. Since the announcement there has been little movement and no construction or excavation on the land.

Klarich said he has been in communications with the developer and its plan is still to open in Alpena. He said at this time there is no timetable for when that will happen has been established.

“Conversations on a timeline are continuing,” Klarich said.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.