DDA Goes to Lansing to Lobby for Main Street Oakland County

DDA Goes to Lansing to Lobby for Main Street Oakland County

(Crystal A. Proxmire)

Members of the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority (DDA) went to Lansing last month to lobby for state support of projects that help improve Downtown areas.  Along with others from cities in the Main Street Oakland County program (MSOC), three Ferndale DDA representatives were introduced to both the House and Senate where Bob Donohue of MSOC spoke on their behalf.

Donohue laid out he needs of the 32 distinct Downtowns throughout Oakland County.  A fact sheet provided by MSOC outlines their demands:

We definitely need to continue and expand the use of existing, successful tax incentives, financial programs and economic development strategies (especially DDAs & Main Street Programs) for downtown management. DDA/ Main Street management programs, Historic Preservation Tax Incentives, Brownfield Redevelopment Programs, Tax Increment Financing, Property Tax Abatement options, and the new Film Incentives are all very important to the future of our downtowns. They must continue. And, we need to be open to refinement of those programs through creativity, to meet the needs of government and the private sector.

Below are four (4) areas which MSOC feels are current issues/needs that are not being met and now need your attention. Every reasonable effort by our State Legislators, as well as County and local officials to secure these needs should be taken. Through innovation, creativity and positive persistence we can find a way.

I. Infrastructure: All of our downtowns, in varying degrees, need to upgrade, sometimes replace, or                    add new basic infrastructure (streets, sidewalks, water, sewer, electrical, parking, utilities).

Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Budgets are also being hit hard by the economy. We must continue to allow DDAs to utilize Tax Increment Financing as a viable source of funding for projects.

Wifi Communication has great potential and needs to be provided as basic infrastructure

The higher density of core downtowns provides for more efficient sustainable use of infrastructure

II. Priority/Catalyst Economic Development Projects: Many of our downtowns have identified key projects. Current funding limitations are negatively impacting these projects. Seed money and/or creative financial packages are necessary. Many projects were not included as “shovel ready” in the first round of “stimulus projects” because there simply was not enough time to prepare cost estimates and plans.

Creative financial tools are needed to implement projects and increase property tax base, long term

Tax Incentives (especially the Historic Preservation Tax Credits) are vital

Loan Programs need to be activated by the banks and other creative financial programs are needed.

Tax Abatement options need to continue (Obsolete Property & Commercial Rehabilitation), limited basis

Brownfield Programs need to be expanded

III. Farmers Markets: Increasingly popular and in high demand, they respond to the need for

fresh food at low cost and the needs of improved health consciousness. Most of our downtowns either

have, or are in the process of creating, farmers markets. Partnerships are being created to better

educate the public, farmers and market operators and to promote them.

Partnerships with MSU Extension, Oakland County Farmers Market, Detroit Eastern Market

and Local Growers are now being explored

Start-Up Costs for many communities and Food Systems Analysis is needed

A Demonstration Greenhouse & Central Warehouse are needed (at Oakland County Farmers Market?)

IV. Design Services: Professional Design Services are often the first step for any business to open or upgrade their facilities. The ability to provide basic building designs and site plans saves costs and is very important to businesses in their attempts to obtain local approvals and project financing. We need to fund the following:

Project Cost Identification & Identification of all applicable Financial Incentives

Design Concept Drawings & Site Plans

Qualifying Projects for all available Incentives

Assistance in working with Local, State & Federal Regulations and Financial Packaging

Just 4 UsCristina Sheppard-Decius (DDA Executive Director), Veronia Lujic (DDA Board Director), and Sharon Chess (Promotions Committee Chair) were able to speak directly with political leaders at a meet-and-greet style luncheon.

Sheppard-Decius said she chatted with State Senator John Pappageorge and Representative Marty Knollenberg about the importance of keeping downtown development a priority in the State budget.

Lujic spoke to Representatives about the benefits of the film industry growth in Michigan.  “They seemed to think the film industry tax credits weren’t really creating any jobs.  But I explained this wasn’t the case.  Maybe its not the traditional full-time, 9-5 jobs like Michigan is used to.  It’s not the auto industry.  You go to California and people are used to going from one temp job to another.  As a small business owner its brought us more business and enabled us to hire more help.  So it indirectly is creating these kinds of jobs.”

Lujic, co-owner of State of the Art Custom Framing (918 W 9 Mile) said that not only has the increased work benefited her business, it’s also been fun.  “We had a big job for this movie where there were blowing up a house.  The scene had a picture in it so they needed dozens of the exact same picture so they could blow it up over and over again.  It’s going to be so fun watching the movie and seeing one of our frames being destroyed.  It’ll be a whole new way to watch the movie.”

For more information about MSOC go to http://www.oakgov.com/peds/program_service/main_street/mainstreetoc.html.  For more information about the Ferndale DDA go to http://www.downtownferndale.com.

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