(FLINT, Mich., Feb. 13, 2015) – The I-69 Thumb Region is fertile ground for growing Michigan’s existing agribusiness to new heights. How to capitalize on that rich potential is the focus of the I-69 Thumb Region Agribusiness Forum to be held February 19 from 12:30-4:30 p.m. at the Lapeer Country Club, 3784 Hunt Road, in Lapeer.

The Agribusiness Forum will bring together representatives from state and local government, policy makers in economic and workforce development, and executives from the agribusiness and investor sectors to learn how the seven-county region – comprised of Genesee, Shiawassee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Tuscola, Sanilac and Huron counties – can leverage its considerable assets important to agribusiness. The discussion also will focus on identifying specific opportunities for expanding the region’s agribusiness base. About 60-75 attendees are expected.

“We aim to increase awareness of the tremendous opportunities on the horizon and to make referrals to our existing partners and stakeholders,” said Janice Karcher, Vice President of Economic Development for the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, one of several regional economic development partners and sponsors of the forum. “It also will advance the discussion on workforce needs and requirements to cultivate this sector.”

In addition, attendees will leave with a greater understanding of our attraction targets and how the region’s significant attributes are the magnet, said Karcher. The target markets are the beverage, commercial bakery, milling, dairy processing and animal food processing industries. The local and regional assets are considerable, including:

·        Location – including proximity to significant metropolitan markets, such as Detroit, Chicago and Ontario, and being centrally located within the state of Michigan

·        Transportation – including rail, interstates, an international crossing, air, deep water ports and public transit

·        Infrastructure – including the availability of fresh water resources, water treatment capacity, and a variety of sites and            buildings of different sizes and price ranges

·        Educational – including multiple higher education locations in the region to provide workforce training and world-renowned research in engineering, agricultural production, packaging technology, supply chain and food processing

·        Food systems – including the availability of kitchen incubators and farmers’ markets

The forum kicks off with a report on the I-69 Thumb Regional Prosperity Plan by Carl Osentoski, Director, Sanilac & Huron County Economic Development Corp., and Craig Coney, President/CEO, Genesee-Shiawassee MI Works! Karcher will share the region’s Agribusiness Development Plan; she will be joined by industry panelists including the Michigan Milk Producers Association. Site selector Jerry Szatan will present Strategies for Attracting New Agribusiness/Food Processors.

The work session concludes with a panel discussion about Michigan Agribusiness Trends and Services Available, moderated by Justin Horvath, President/CEO, Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership. Panelists include: Joe Cramer, Executive Director, Michigan Bean Commission; Scott Corrin, Economic Specialist, Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development; Trevor Pawl, Managing Director, MEDC Pure Michigan Business Connect; Travis Fahley, District 6 Director, Michigan Farm Bureau; and Jeff Wright, Genesee County Drain Commissioner, Karegnondi Water Authority.

“Agribusiness is projected to grow significantly over the next 10 years,” said Karcher. “The I-69 Thumb Region is home to a broad range of agricultural businesses and this forum is an important step in aligning resources to take full advantage of this opportunity.”

For more information, contact Julie Hipps at jhipps@flintandgenesee.org or (810) 600-1429.