ALPENA - The last year has brought about one big change for Target Alpena. It joined forces with the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce to help push Alpena forward in economic development. It also helped 14 new businesses open their doors, which led to 39 new jobs created.
Director Jim Klarich, said he is pleased with what Target was able to accomplish with the help of the chamber, and expects even more success moving into his second year working for Target.
"Obviously without the support of the chamber Target Alpena would be having a very difficult time financially," Klarich said. "But bringing the business community into the fold has really helped us out in that regard. Our working relationship with the chamber, as well as the Downtown Development Authority and the convention and visitor's bureau has been really good. We have all aligned ourselves toward working toward the same goals and our focus is in the same direction."
Klarich said there were 797 counseling hours with potential developers and entrepreneurs and more than $1.4 million of capital invested via personal investment or loans. Klarich said in order for Alpena to maximize its economic development potential, a plan is in place that will make it simpler for potential developers to get important data about the area. He said there is also room for improvement on how potential business contacts are contacted.
"We are good at some things and there are things we are not yet very good at, and really what last year was about, was setting the table for really good things to happen," Klarich said. "We are learning how to understand what metrics companies are looking for and use them for business recruitment. We need to know what they are looking for and do we have those metrics available. A lot of what we have been doing has been putting that information together, which will allow us to go out and recruit businesses on their level."
Klarich said there is always a lot of action going on behind the scenes with parties interested in doing business in Alpena. He said people would be surprised by some of the companies that drift through town checking out the area.
"There are significant projects which could become reality in the next 12 months, but we are obligated most times not to talk about them," Klarich said. "Many times the secrecy is out of respect for the company because they don't want their competitors to know what they are up to or thinking. There is always a level of confidentiality we have to respect, but people would be surprised, heck, I'm even surprised by the amount companies that come through town that nobody knows about."
It has been long debated whether Alpena has the infrastructure in place or property available to be able to handle a significant amount of economic growth. Klarich said there are some things Alpena needs to do to become more attractive for potential investors, but added the chamber, the CVB and the DDA and Target are working to correct the issues.
"We do have some deficiencies we have and we are trying to overcome. Let's say another company the size of Lafarge or Besser wanted to come to town. Do we have the infrastructure in place, turn-key ready to hand them?" Klarich said. "At this point I don't think we do, but we are working now to make it possible for us to accommodate them. Alpena still has a lot to offer and when I took this job I told people it wasn't going to be easy, but I think there are still very exciting things ahead for economic development in Alpena."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.