Industrial park, fairgrounds main points of focus for Arenac County EDC

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STANDISH — The Arenac County Economic Development Corporation hopes to leverage its recent $50,000 tribal grant to fund further developments to the industrial park and to make progress on the relocation of the county fairgrounds.

According to EDC member Adam Kroczaleski, last year the EDC received $25,000 from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, which was used to leverage an additional $85,000 in grants toward the development of the Iron Belle Trail.

“That money has all gone toward different sections of the Iron Belle Trail,” he said.

Kroczaleski said last year’s money had been used for pre-engineering and planning of the different sections of the trail.

Typically tribal grants are earmarked for specific projects. However, because of the broad scope of the EDC, the money was awarded under a “Special Projects” category. Kroczaleski said the funds still have a restriction that they must be used to fund a project.

Kroczaleski said the EDC intends to use this year’s funds to further its progress on the industrial park in Standish, with a focus of working with Lake State Railway to add a rail spur to the park; a possible expansion of Air Park Road to add access to adjacent parcels; or for the county and EDC’s efforts of relocating the fairgrounds.

The EDC is in the process of working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a feasibility study to help determine what the new fairgrounds location should include. Kroczaleski said he hopes the fairgrounds would include an agricultural and events center.

“We have groups like the Sterling Sportsmen’s Club who have to hold their annual banquet in West Branch because we don’t have a facility to accommodate them,” he said.

Another thing that is being planned at the new fairgrounds location is a commercial kitchen that could be used as an incubator for food businesses, according to EDC Director Lisa Barna.

Barna said the idea was brought up by fair board President Kimberly Karpinski.

“She is a really creative thinker, looking for all the different revenue sources with how she can support the fair,” Barna said.

Kroczaleski said he is hopeful that once the new location is established, the county will find partners that will utilize the fairgrounds year-round.

Also in the works is a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant, Kroczaleski said.

He said the EDA’s local representative is Lee Shirey, who is a West Branch native.

“He is from West Branch and actually knows where Standish is,” Kroczaleski joked. “So that’s a plus. Based on preliminary discussions this project would qualify for an EDA grant.”

Kroczaleski said the benefit with a federal grant is the ability for the EDC to use any state grants for match dollars, essentially stretching the money further.

Once a final location is decided for the fairgrounds and a feasibility study is completed, Kroczaleski said there will be a public meeting for input from citizens, where visual elements of some of the features intended at the fairgrounds will be shown.

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