ALPENA - It has been almost a year since Jim Klarich took over as the director of Target Alpena. In that time Target has partnered with the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce to utilize resources to promote local economical development, helped new businesses get off the ground, and promoted the Alpena area to companies and corporations in an attempt to persuade them to set up shop locally.
According to Klarich, the partnership with the chamber has allowed for his office to bypass much of the administrative work, and work more directly in the trenches with established and potential businesses. He said previously Target spent a lot of time searching for money to operate and invest, but with the help of the chamber and its members, it is on steadier ground and can focus on what its true mission is.
"The amount of paperwork, tracking budgets, and tracking expenses took a lot of time away from actually doing work," Klarich said. "The chamber has the resources in place to do those things, and it took them off my plate and allows me to focus on certain projects."
Chamber Executive Director Jackie Krawczak said the relationship between the two entities is a work in progress and both sides are still getting to know how the other operates. Krawczak has had dealings with Target before Klarich arrived and said one of the biggest changes in how Target operates is in terms of getting money.
"I think Target is much more viable now because of the way we set up the new tiers so people could fund it. It is very easy to help fund economical development now, and Jim doesn't have to be the one out there asking for those funds just to keep the doors open," Krawczak said. "We know the doors are going to stay open, but now we can go out and ask for money for other projects."
Klarich said without the relationship with the chamber, he doubted Target would have survived another year, and the turnaround is due to the amount of support private companies are committing to the cause. Krawczak said in years past, public donations far outweighed those of private entities, but now there has been a swing on the allocations.
"Our goal was to shift it from 80 percent public, 20 percent private or less. Last year there was zero private support," Krawczak said. "We wanted to flip that and we are right about at that now. There is a mechanism now that we ask our members to pay a little more on their dues and it goes to economical development."
Klarich said several new businesses have opened, and there are more on the horizon. He said an extra effort is being made to reach out to potential developers and lure them to Alpena, instead of waiting to be approached.
"We have a coordinated outreach program to reach out to business who may be looking to relocate. That is on any form from in state to out of state," Klarich said. "We want to be able to have a prospectus to be able to go in there and say this is what we have and we would like to have you in a gracious way. That is really at the forefront of what we are trying to put together. In my opinion if we have 20 people in Alpena, and one decides to open a business or move here, that is good. We want to make those numbers better."
Krawczak said there is always interest in economic development and discussion taking place, and for the most part the general public has no idea what is going on behind the scenes. She said in many cases confidentiality agreements have to be signed, so often details are never released until the project gets the go-ahead. Krawczak said often the perception is that nothing is going on, but she said that is far from the truth.
"There are always projects going on, but we can't talk about them. I always joke that if the walls of the chamber could talk, they could make a lot of money giving away the secrets they hear," Krawczak said. "There are always a lot of exciting things, but sometimes they just don't happen for one reason or another. Our secrecy can make or break a deal, so we can't risk letting information get out, and the community shouldn't want it to get out so another community doesn't sweep in and make an offer."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.