Birmingham hopes to foster development, more growth in Alpena
ALPENA — Alpena’s new Director of Planning, Development, and Zoning Montiel Birmingham likes the direction the area is headed in terms of economic development and growth and she is excited to work to help it to continue to move forward.
An Alpena native, Birmingham moved with her family back to Alpena from the Grand Rapids area where she worked as an inbound logistics manager and supply chain specialist.
She began her new job with the city last month and is still settling into her new position, but is already working with developers and community partners to spur more growth she says will benefit Northeast Michigan residents and out-of-town visitors.
Having been away for years, with the exception of an occasional visit, Birmingham said when she moved back to her hometown, she was impressed with the progress that has been made, and the amount of large projects ongoing and in the works.
She said franchises have their places in communities, but one of her goals is to work with others to create more locally small businesses in the area.
“I love seeing local restaurants, not chains, although there is a place for them, but I love being able to see people in the community starting businesses and succeeding and the people supporting them,” Birmingham said.
Tourism in Alpena has been an important part of its economy, and Birmingham wants to utilize Alpena’s resources to attract more visitors. Improvements planned for the harbor, parks, and local shopping and dining are good draws, she said.
Still, she said, development needs to fit with the lifestyle residents want and expect so the small town charm of the city isn’t lost.
“There is potential for more tourism here, but it also has to be about the community and the people who live here year round,” she said. “We can’t be just a seasonal community. I think there are still a lot of opportunities here.”
Birmingham said she intends to work with other development organizations such as the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, the Alpena Downtown Development Authority, the Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau, and other municipalities to make development easier and more efficient for all involved.
“Having strong relationships is vital,” Birmingham said. “I may be able to work on zoning, while the chamber may be working on us and trying to bring someone in. We have to make sure we are working together to make the whole area appealing. If we don’t all work together then how can we have one vision?”