SHIAWASSEE COUNTY —Three local municipalities are putting their heads together to develop a strategic plan for their respective communities going forward.

The city of Durand, Village of Vernon and Vernon Township are coordinating to create a joint economic development and regional marketing strategy.

The impetus behind the push to create a strategic economic plan is all three communities want to be certified as Redevelopment Ready Communities by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The voluntary, no-cost certification program is designed to promote effective redevelopment strategies through a set of best practices. Officials say it puts communities in a better position to receive grant dollars from the state and indicates to investors that doing business in the community is streamlined and efficient.

To be certified, a community must have an economic development plan. Currently, the only municipality in Shiawassee County to receive the certification by the state is the City of Laingsburg.

The program doesn’t pay for construction materials, but will pay for things such as advisers and engineers to assist in the development process. These “technical assistance dollars” help bring down the overall costs of a project.

While going through the process, some grant funding becomes available to applicants for planning.

The municipalities have used the funds to hire Joe Borgstrom, principal of Place and Main Advisors to help them draft their plan.

“We are excited to be working with Durand, Vernon, and Vernon Township on this strategy,” Borgstrom said. “The community has so much to offer already and has a ton of potential. We look forward to working with the residents and businesses here to create a great plan that reflects the desires of the people here to be the best community they can be.”

Over the coming months, the three municipalities will begin the planning process for their efforts and it will culminate in a final strategic document.

The process will take about six months and, to kick it off, there will be three “economic development summits” to get input from local businesses and residents at the following times and locations:

n From 6 to 8 p.m. on March 3 at the Vernon Village hall

n From 6 to 8 p.m. on March 5, at the Vernon Township Hall

n From 6 to 8 p.m. on March 16 at Durand City Hall.

Borgstrom and local officials from each municipality will attend the meetings to help gather input.

Durand City Manager Colleen O’Toole said that it was important for the three municipalities to come together and collaborate on the plan.

“The impacts of economic change do not stop at municipal boundaries. In order for our region to enjoy greater economic prosperity while still maintaining the character that so many residents love, we need to plan collaboratively,” O’Toole said. “I am extremely pleased to be working with my counterparts in the village and township to make that happen.”

Vernon Village Clerk Krista Goodman echoed those sentiments.

“The Village of Vernon is excited to be working with the City of Durand and Vernon Township. It is an exciting time for our residents and businesses. Planning and having foresight for the future is a difficult task, but is necessary for economic growth,” Goodman said.

“The Village has recently seen growth with new businesses coming to the village. We want to see continued economic growth and prosperity for all. By obtaining grant dollars through the State of Michigan Redevelopment Ready Communities program, we will be able to achieve our goals and be successful economically as well as maintain our small-town feel.”

According to Borgstrom, the plan will include two different scenarios — one plan for if “Project Tim” comes to fruition — and one if it does not. The proposed steel mill would be one of the largest of its kind in the region.

According to information from the Durand City Council provided in 2017, the mill would be 3,900 feet wide and 6,200 feet long.

The size of the development site would be 2 1/2 square miles, north of Lansing Road, south of Goodall Road, east of Durand Road and west of Brown Road.

Ohio-based New Steel International has said previously that it is seeking a federal loan through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program for development.

Potential customers for the steel produced have been portrayed as U.S. automakers. Officials said there are no new updates on the project.

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