‘We will get there’

Target Alpena celebrates successes at annual meeting

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce Membership Director Valerie Skorupski introduces herself to business leaders in Alpena during the annual Target Alpena meeting Tuesday. Skorupski will work directly with chamber members and assist them as needed. She said that, although she has only lived in Alpena a short time, she has already fallen in love with the area and the community as a whole.

ALPENA — Since the 1980s, there has been a lot economic development success in the Alpena region, and much of that has been spurred by the firm Target Alpena and those who support it, officials said this week.

Target works under the umbrella of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce and is the primary economic development organization in Northeast Michigan.

On Tuesday morning, Target hosted its annual meeting, with a theme that posed a simple question and had somber realities as answers.

The theme asked what Alpena would look like if there were no economic development efforts.

The answers to that question do not paint a pretty picture, as it would likely mean there would be far fewer business, educational, and marketing successes, officials said. The impacts from the low growth that likely would have occurred could have had a significant impact on the local economy and quality of life.

Chamber Economic Development Director Jim Klarich said that, if the services Target and the chamber provide were not in place, many of the places and things the community enjoys now — or will enjoy shortly — likely would not be realities.

“Would we be building a new airport terminal if we didn’t have commercial air service? Probably not,” Klarich said. “Would the hospital continually expand if our economic influence was contracting? Would (Alpena Community College) be aggressively investing in more professional training curriculum and campus improvements if we weren’t keeping the students here longer and giving them economic ladders to help them pay for college? Would Meijer, Harbor Freight, and a bunch of others have invested in Alpena if we weren’t moving forward? Would Holiday Inn Express (and Suites) have invested if there was no need and no one to suggest it? All of them and many more wouldn’t be here if there was no future for economic success.”

Helping economic development efforts along are people such as Klarich, Alpena Planning and Development Director Adam Poll, chamber President Jackie Krawczak, and others who take calls, answer questions, and provide requested data to potential developers. Target also has tools to recruit and assist potential developers, such as its loan program and business counseling to help businesses get off the ground with a solid plan for sustainability.

If those and many other serves offered by Target didn’t exist, it would be difficult for developers to choose Alpena for their business goals and needs, officials said.

“What if there was no one for them to call or no one to call them? Who would help with site selection?” Klarich said. “Government and the private sector don’t always speak the same language, so who would be the interpreter for them?”

Klarich said he has noticed a large shift in thinking in Alpena in terms of development, and that change has led to many accomplishments.

“When I started here, we were sort of floating on a middle ground and we were hoping somebody would come or something would happen,” Klarich said. “Now, our future isn’t based on hope, anymore. As an organization, we let go of hope and went out and made stuff happen. We are succeeding now and will succeed in the end.”

Target President Chad Esch said that, when he moved to Alpena, Walmart was a new store and the construction of Home Depot was just beginning. He said that, when he looks at the area today, he sees a different place than he did then.

“That was a long time ago, but now look at M-32, the south corridor or north on U.S.-23.,” Esch said. “The economic development is moving forward, but it takes a long, long time. The hard part in doing what we do is seeing the vision for tomorrow or 10 years from now, deciding what we want and how we are going to get there, but we will get there.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.