Klarich knows growth begets growth

Jim Klarich has heard it all before.

As economic development director for the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce and Target Alpena, he knows when people talk on the street about economic development, more often than not they are talking about new plants and industries moving to the region, creating lots of jobs. Many people are thinking Ford, GM or Chrysler size industries.

Which is nice, but not reality.

Klarich understands those industries are indeed few and far between. And even if they were out there, the region needs to first “learn to walk before it can run.”

Klarich, speaking at Target’s annual meeting earlier this week, told those in attendance he has learned a lot from corporate site selectors he has met with over the years.

While every community can pretty much offer these folks tax abatements, infrastructure improvement and other economic amenities, what these site selectors have come to focus in on in their visits is what kind of “vibe” the community has, what the quality of life is in that community.

If the spouses and families of the workers aren’t happy, if they have to travel far to do shopping, or enjoy entertainment, then it quickly impacts everyone, Klarich said. These selectors have told him they no longer are looking so much at the economic incentives as they choose where to locate, but rather places that offer quality schools, restaurants, shopping, outdoor recreation and health care.

The families have to enjoy the community where they relocate, he said. If they don’t, family life suffers and soon that dissatisfaction shows up in the workplace as well.

Klarich understands quite well that with every new restaurant that opens or shopping opportunity that moves into the region, it is just another reason why eventually a small industry or research and development company might ultimately choose Northeast Michigan in which to locate. He gets excited with every new ribbon cutting of such ventures.

Klarich has seen solid growth in Alpena since he assumed his duties as director, and more is anticipated in the months ahead.

Still, growth never seems to move fast enough for some.

Klarich understands that by definition, for an economic developer patience isn’t a luxury but rather a requirement.

And so he waits.

But he also knows that for every minute he spends on trying to attract a new retailer into the old Kmart, for instance, it will be time well spent and could pay dividends down the road.

That is why Klarich always has a smile on his face.

And, that is why we as a community should smile as well.

Bill Speer can be reached via email at bspeer@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13.