Tim Herman, CEO Tim Herman, CEO

June 8, 2016

As we enter the month of June, I’m reminded that it has been eight months since the Genesee County Board of Commissioners declared a public health emergency due to Flint’s lead-contaminated water system.

Our board has called for the continuation of careful and deliberate removal of the lead service lines in the city’s system. City government, business owners and residents have made it clear it’s the only way to restore long-term confidence in the city’s water system. Yet, the Flint community still does not have clean, safe drinking water.

In the meantime, we are focusing on other areas of support for the business community. You told us how you’ve been impacted and what would be helpful, and we listened and we’re taking action.

Next week top business leaders from around the state will spend the day in Flint with the Flint & Genesee Chamber. The purpose is to discuss how their expertise and company resources can help expedite Flint’s recovery. I’m very excited about this meeting of the minds.

Through the Moving Flint Forward (MFF) Fund, which was infused with $1 million by Huntington and FlintNOW, businesses that have been impacted by the water crisis can apply for grants up to $10,000 that can help with some expenses. We will be announcing the grant recipients in the coming days.

To provide Flint residents greater access to fresh foods, the Chamber commissioned a market feasibility study to determine the best locations – and best structure -- for grocery stores on the north side of Flint. The study is now complete and under review to develop recommendations and next steps.

We offer a water distribution for businesses program, through which, impacted organizations can pick up cases of bottled water at no charge.

To help shift the perception of Flint, we are working with our agency partners on public relations and advocacy. Through this partnership we are communicating positive messages regarding the region’s strengths and assets, and helping to restore Flint’s reputation as a vibrant place to do business, live and visit.

You, our Chamber members, have also asked us to be the source of credible information on water crisis efforts, and we’re doing that through a dedicated Flint Water Emergency web page, regular updates, face-to-face meetings with legislators and government officials, and much more.

We are collaborating with local, state and federal partners to develop a sustainable economic development plan. The goal is to help Flint regain lost ground, and attract new investment and jobs.

Prior to the water crisis, downtown Flint was on the cusp of a renaissance, with growing business investment and tourism, and a strong core that includes thriving colleges and universities, medical centers, upscale living and a national caliber arts and cultural center.

Recently, we received the great news that Flint’s Receivership Transition Advisory Board approved a tax freeze on the Capitol Theatre. Mayor Karen Weaver supported the decision and the Flint City Council voted 8-0 in favor of transferring the tax freeze from the Capitol’s previous owner to Uptown Reinvestment Corp.

So we’re now a major step closer to starting the restoration process. And it can’t come soon enough. Once the Theatre opens, this will be a game changer for not only downtown Flint, but also for the overall region.

The foundation that we have created in Flint & Genesee leaves me very optimistic – despite what’s happening with Flint water.

So while we’re focused on finding and implementing solutions that will help local businesses and hotels thrive, we’re also laser-focused on continuing the growth of our economy.  That means bringing in new investments and jobs, and more visitors.

Flint is open for business and we must do everything we can to spread the word. Invite everyone that you know outside of Flint to come see for themselves what Flint has to offer.