Last week, the citizens of Flint and Genesee County learned of positive news from Lear Corporation, Consumers Energy and FlintNow as well as the PGA Tour Champions in partnership with Detroit-based Ally Financial. In the following Q&A with Inside Business, Flint & Genesee Chamber CEO Tim Herman shares his reactions to pivotal news announced last week.
IB: Flint was in the news quite a bit last week for positive happenings. What were some of the announcements?
TH: Last week was a great week for Flint and Genesee County. In a matter of 2-3 days, we had news of good-paying jobs, major business investments and a commitment to Flint high school graduates. These projects are huge and will have a significant impact on Flint.
For example, Lear Corporation announced that it will open a new manufacturing plant at the former Buick City site. The automotive seating facility will employ up to 600 people when it is at full employment. Other exciting news includes Flint Promise. Consumers Energy and the FlintNow Foundation, founded by Tom Gores, Owner of the Detroit Pistons, announced that together they would contribute $2 million to start Flint Promise. This is an outstanding gift to young people in Flint. The details are still being worked out but, it’s essentially a program that provides a tuition-free pathway to college for Flint high school graduates.
IB: What about the PGA announcement?
TH: Yes, the PGA Tour Champions and Ally Financial announced they are bringing a new event to Grand Blanc’s Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club. Called the Ally Challenge, the event offers the winner $2 million. It’s expected that this event will bring many visitors to the area and generate a strong boost to our local economy. Flint & Genesee is one of the best areas for golfing in Michigan. So, personally, I’m thrilled about the PGA coming back.
IB: There are many great projects underway in downtown Flint. That’s exciting. What does this mean to the citizens of Flint?
TH: What’s happening in downtown Flint is very exciting! A recent MLive Flint article captured some of the current projects underway in downtown Flint. These projects – Capitol Theatre, Mott Community College's Culinary Institute, a new apartment complex, the Ferris Wheel, the Riverfront Restoration project and others – add up to well over $100 million in investment. They represent an important next phase that builds on revitalization efforts that have occurred over the past 10 years. Work that created a thriving downtown where people are living, working, going to school and dining out.
Flint citizens will benefit from new jobs, entrepreneurial opportunities and new housing. A little-known fact is that we have about 1,300 people living in downtown apartments, lofts and student housing. And if you factor in single family housing in nearby neighborhoods, there are around 2,500. Our goal is to have over 4,000 people living downtown and in adjoining neighborhoods by 2020. And we are well on our way.
IB: What else is going on? Are there any projects in the pipeline?
TH: Absolutely! But none that I can speak of yet. Stay tuned. What I can tell you is that an exciting project is coming full circle. Laird, a supplier of wireless and antenna components, has a celebration coming up soon. Laird will host a grand opening of their new engineering, research and development facility in Grand Blanc Township in late September. This was a $12 million investment.