Flint’s economic development director readies for new investments

Flint’s economic development director readies for new investments

Investors wanted.

That’s Roderick Miller’s mantra.

The City of Flint’s incoming economic development director is assembling proof that Flint is more nimble, responsive and ready for development than many might think.

The Lear Corporation’s new 156,000 square-foot facility will ultimately employ 600 Flint-area residents and is a beacon for future growth in the city. Lear stock photo

The Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce has, for example, supported more than $296 million in new investment and government contracts in 2017, according to Tim Herman, the Chamber’s CEO.

Among the city’s strongest development assets is land, and lots of it.

“We’ve got some enviable assets,” says Miller, who was previously CEO of the Detroit Economic Development Corp. “Principal among them are the former 400-acre GM and 150-acre Delphi sites, which have existing infrastructure that many properties throughout the region lack.”

Coupled with the city’s world-class educational institutions and transportation infrastructure, they form a tempting trifecta, says Miller. He is confident investors looking to escape escalating property rates and cumbersome land assembly issues will find value in the city’s affordability and large, development-ready industrial parcels.

The $37 million restoration of Flint’s historic downtown Capitol Theatre is helping attract the attention of a whole new generation of people excited to see new investments the city’s downtown business corridor. Photo by Danen Williams.

“This is a smaller community with inherent benefits,” he says. “Flint’s an easier city to navigate. Our size makes us more responsive to investor needs.”

Capitalizing on benefits will require upgrades in the city’s websites and other communications mechanisms.

Employing a more personal touch wouldn’t hurt either, Miller says. He plans to host, at least, two site-selector events this year to showcase the city’s amenities to those who rely on counsel about what, when and where to buy.

Visibility is everything, Miller says, adding that it’s important Flint “gets itself out there” and markets the community at trade conferences and events. He has already attended several major events, within his first 45 days at the helm of the city’s 3-man department.

Of course, there are obstacles too and the city’s 40 year-old economic development expert is working hard to eliminate them.

Miller says he wants to “streamline” city processes, “foster collaboration” between departments and “utilize the city’s existing assets.”

Nobody can sell Flint’s business culture better than business owners like Oaklin Mixon, whose GoodBoy Clothing shop is representative of the forward-thinking attitude of Flint’s small businesses. Photo by Paul Engstrom

He says one of the best ways to accomplish those goals is encouraging current stakeholders to “tell the Flint story.”

There is unprecedented collaboration between the City of Flint, its civic and philanthropic organizations and educational institutions, Miller adds.

“There’s a reason why they are here and a value associated with their presence,” Miller says. “We want to provide a forum for our stakeholders to express that value not just to us, but to other businesses.”

The city needs to build alignment and Miller hopes to roll-out a formal strategic plan by late summer or early fall.

Mayor Karen Weaver is betting he’ll be able to amass an impressive string of successes, to top off his performance record, which includes attracting more than $5 billion in private investments and the creation of 40,000 new jobs to date.

Miller will also play a key role in delivering on the city’s economic development goals. Funded by a $2.9M grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Flint’s economic development goals include:
• Creating a strategic plan
• Development of the business case and value proposition for the city
• Identification of targeted industry sectors
• A promotion and marketing campaign focused on attracting and retaining businesses
• Building the city’s economic development department

“To deliver on those goals, we’ve got to strengthen our collaboration, build clarity and continuity around where we are going and collectively market our strengths,” he says.

That will result in job growth and more opportunities for Flint.

Lead photo by Danen Williams



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