Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 10, 2013

Leelanau shuns economic partnership

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A plan to create jobs in Leelanau County is dead, as is a long-time public board tasked with fostering economic development there.

Leelanau County’s Board of Commissioners this week voted to reject a partnership with the Traverse Bay Economic Development Corp. to develop a a long-term strategy for creating jobs in the county. Commissioners also voted to disband the county’s Economic Development Board during the same discussion.

The EDC board’s dismantling prompted longtime EDC head John “Chip” Hoagland to sharply criticize the Board of Commissioners. Hoagland said county commissioners who disbanded the board “do not want new jobs created, do not want to support young families, and therefore are roadblocks to our schools and young people, the future of our community.”

“I’m severely disappointed with the quality of thought by our elected officials,” Hoagland said. “County board to citizens: you are on your own.”

The partnership with the Traverse Bay EDC would have cost the county $16,500. An outline of the partnership called for the county to identify three to four major economic development initiatives that are important to Leelanau County and to act on them. The proposal called for Leelanau County to be a “national leader in smart, sustainable economic development;” to explore job growth in “clean applied technologies”; finding compatibility between existing economic development drivers such as tourism and other employment sectors; and pursuing partnerships with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

County Commissioner Karen Zemaitis cited a number of reasons why she voted to reject the partnership, noting many citizens told her they did not want it.

“They felt it was redundant, and their own area was being taken care of by (their local) chamber,” Zemaitis said. “They didn’t want someone else telling them what to do. Other people felt it was a property rights issue.”

Zemaitis also confirmed her no vote came in part because of concerns about Agenda 21 – an obscure United Nations treaty that promotes environmental stewardship and sustainable development.

“The things that they have produced in their strategic plan, they are for many of the things in Agenda 21 -- the same language,” Zemaitis said. “It is something I do not want in my area. They want to have people live in cities only, which would eliminate living in our county because we don’t have any cities here. They want us to use public transportation only, which again is unworkable in our community.”

Zemaitis sits on the board of directors for the region’s largest public transit agency, Bay Area Transit Authority, or BATA.

Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce Director Doug Luciani, who supported the partnership, could not be reached for comment.