Tim Herman, CEO

Although it is early in the year, I’m feeling pretty optimistic that our region is moving in the right direction.  I’ve talked to several business owners who are more confident about their ability to hire new employees. The market has been positive and therefore investors are also feeling more confident. And our region is working collaboratively like never before to keep the economic engine revved and moving forward.

January and February were good months. Just recently, the Michigan Strategic Fund Board approved the I-69 International Trade Corridor to become the state’s largest Next Michigan Development Corporation -- an entity that is designed to promote business development around transportation assets. This is tremendous news and it is a great testament to the power of regional collaboration! Businesses that use different modes of transportation and are located in the Next Michigan zone will have access to targeted incentives that encourage jobs and investment in communities along the I-69 Corridor. The chief goal of this initiative is to grow the region and create jobs.  You’ll be hearing more good stories on this front in the coming weeks.

Prior to receiving the good news about the I-69 NMDC, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency partnered with the Regional Chamber to host two Roundtable meetings to discuss manufacturing issues.  About two dozen Flint-area manufacturing and business leaders had a platform to express their views about the manufacturing landscape in Genesee County as well as ask questions, and communicate their needs and concerns.  They also learned more about President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget plan – that if approved – could help the manufacturing industry in terms of increased efficiency and export trade promotion. Again, more examples of how we are leveraging our relationships to improve the business environment and investment in our community.

Coming up… on March 22, the Regional Chamber and the eTEAM will host the annual Jumpstart Entrepreneur Conference that will focus on starting, developing and managing a business. This is a “don’t miss” opportunity for entrepreneurs just starting out as well as aspiring entrepreneurs!

The following week -- on March 28 – we will hold our Annual Meeting.  Our team is looking forward to seeing all of our members and partners, and sharing highlights of the good work achieved in 2011.  I also think you’ll really enjoy our keynote speaker, Harvey Hollins III. Harvey is the director of the Michigan Office of Urban and Metropolitan initiatives and is a principal adviser to Governor Rick Snyder.

At the Regional Chamber, we believe that we offer the greatest value to the community through our leadership and strategic partnerships. This year, you will see more evidence of working across county and state lines and providing more consultative services to keep moving our region in the right direction.