The City of Flint and Genesee County show promising signs of economic momentum. A steady stream of big developments like the decision by Lear Corp. to invest $29 million to build a seat-manufacturing facility on a portion of the former Buick City plant site have dominated headlines. But there’s also been noteworthy expansion by local neighborhood small shops, like Master’s Beauty & Barber Shop, Yevette’s Gourmet Tacos and GoodBoy Clothing.
It’s important that smaller, locally owned businesses like these be elevated and become an integral part of the city’s future growth strategies. And they will, says Flint & Genesee Chamber President Tim Herman, who insists that inclusion will be at the core of what’s ahead.
“Continued collaboration and inclusion in downtown and neighborhood development is critical,” Herman says. He told the Chamber’s recent 2018 Annual Meeting at the Holiday Inn Flint-Grand Blanc Area that folding in economic development in Flint’s neighborhoods must be a mandate if the city hopes to propel its momentum.
Much has been done, but there’s even more opportunity ahead, Herman says.
“Our strategy is working,” he told more than 400 assembled guests. “While the type of change that we need here in Flint & Genesee doesn’t happen overnight, we can look back over the past three years and see that economic momentum has taken hold.”
Herman knows that Flint and Genesee County residents have the kind of talent new and existing employers need. He vows to further build and develop programs designed to make talent recruitment, development and retention easier for area businesses.
Over the past five years, Genesee County generated 4,330 jobs, contributing to a wage growth of 19.4 percent. The employment rate rose slightly from the previous year, from 5 percent to 5.7 percent, with more people returning to the labor force, according to Chamber data. Herman acknowledged that the unemployment rate in the City of Flint sits above 10 percent.
Through efforts to attract new employers the Chamber hopes to continue to help bring more area residents back into the workforce, particularly young people.
The Chamber’s YouthQuest program helped nearly 3,000 students with career prep last year, and its Summer Youth Initiative resulted in 400 teens being employed, many for the first time.
Education and tourism were among other areas of focus highlighted by Herman, who again mentioned plans for a major hotel in Flint’s downtown business district.
“We believe these goals and our strategies will help us create the kind of place where people want to be, and businesses want to locate and grow,” says Herman.
Lead Image: Oaklin Mixon’s GoodBoy Clothing is representative of the kind of business growth that the Chamber hopes to foster among other locally-owned small businesses. Photo by Paul Engstrom