Albion Recorder & Calhoun/Jackson Morning Star News

Overall new year goals lack measurements and benchmarks for success for Albion’s EDC board and president/CEO

Virgie Ammerman

By Sylvia Benavidez
Contributing Writer

Board members Ben Wallace, Victoria Garcia Snyder, Vicky Clark, and Chair Jerome Harvey
were at the first Albion Economic Development Corporation board meeting of the new year. During the
EDC president and CEO’s report, interim Virgie Ammerman reviewed the EDC goals for the next five
years, EDC Multicultural 10-Point Plan Goals, and competencies for her position, such as leadership,
government, community relations, and fiscal management. In her Jan. 11 memo to the board, the
government competencies were described as developing policies and arranging for strategic planning;
leadership listed the Michigan State Police and Calhoun County Prosecutor results. This topic is in
regard to how she used her email account after she was dismissed by the first EDC board. For
community competencies, she listed establishing and reestablishing relationships, and the last was
financial, which included information on the 2024 Budget Amendment. Specifics and measurements of
these competencies were not stated at the meeting.

Ammerman said, “In the area of government competencies, we are still in the process of
developing policies that’ll be all year. So, this year, we are developing policies and getting them into a
format where we can have consistency and longevity.” However, she was able to hone some leadership
qualities and said, “I am happy to report that the Michigan State Police and the Calhoun County
Prosecutor have found it not necessary to continue with a process of investigation that had come up in
August.”

In a call to Calhoun County Prosecutor Dave Gilbert, he verified to The Recorder that the
Michigan State Police sent the complaint for review for a warrant to his office. He said since the emails
were sent to her initially and then eventually recovered by the city no crime had been committed. Had
they not been recovered that would have led to a different outcome.

As for the community competencies, she said the rebuilding of relationships included across the
region and state. As for the finance competency, she said she was bringing forth a budget adjustment as
denoted by the city’s finance director. She also elaborated on the EDC Multicultural 10-Point Plan Goals
and said, “We have the highest unemployment rate in the county, so our goal this year is to reduce that.”

Ammerman listed the EDC’s five-year plan goals, including the site readiness and land
accumulation for the East Albion Industrial Park, supporting expansions in West Albion Industrial Park,
attracting established commercial businesses, partnering with DDA re: Brownfield and Revolving Loan
Fund, supporting growth/expansion Austin Avenue, and supporting growth/expansion North/South Eaton. One option she and her team are looking at is a corridor enhancement program through the state, which would allow funding for developers.

Ammerman has taken steps to hire new staff. As of Monday, Jan. 8, Takala Williams began as a grant and program administrator. She also mentioned Albion Industries has bought land and is expanding in the existing industrial park.

Ammerman said for housing goals, she and her staff hope to stream-line lot by lot development,
supporting the preservation of housing via MI-Hope Grant Dollars, which was one million dollars but is
$950,000 due to administrative costs, and she reports people are submitting applications, reviewing
Housing Research Outcomes from Summer 2023 Intern, and partnering with the Cities of Marshall and
Springfield re: Regional Housing Plan.

The proposed strategic goals for 2024 for the board are almost identical to those being used to
evaluate the CEO. “So that we are at least in alignment,” said Ammerman. None of the board members
disagreed with what was listed. An example of some of the multicultural goals included Identifying
partners for each area and reporting partner progress to the Board of Directors. What I know from
statewide economic development meetings is economic development specialists are weaving all these
items together for effective economic stability and growth and identifying and beginning to transition 20%of the 700 unemployed and underemployed.”

Ammerman also noted that there are six board positions open for the EDC. She said the
background check requirements for the volunteer position almost sound like that of an employee. She
said she has had questions as to what the qualifications were to be a board member. Ammerman said, “I
hope it would mirror somewhat our strategic goals.”

Clark and Harvey had concerns, along with Ammerman, that board members had not been
nominated by the mayor. Harvey stressed the difficulty of not having a full board. Clark said she
understood the mayor’s concern about future litigation but said there were still two open board seats.
Mayor Garcia Snyder said she had already asked for the list of names from the city clerk before the
meeting and said, “We will go from there.”

Reporting on various subcommittees, Ammerman said the restaurant association is looking for
further brainstorming and training on expanding or keeping businesses open in Albion. The Community
Engagement Committee is promoting financial literacy by encouraging children’s savings accounts, and
they are waiting for a state-supported program to have open slots. They also hope to come up with more ideas to revitalize the city’s business corridors. The Housing Task Force and the Industry and Business
Taskforce meetings have been set. The focus of that group is the needs of the infrastructure for the
Industrial Park as well as attracting commercial businesses and filling downtown stores.

In regard to grant programs, Ammerman reported that the State of Michigan has placed Match on
Main Street on hold. “The new applications are on hold,” she said. Galazio’s outdoor seating is on hold
because of the hold. The other two winners, Yellowbird and Kid’s ‘N’ Stuff, have been fully paid and
reimbursed. The Galazio project would be a loan of $25,000 that would pay out directly to contractors for
the Match on Main seed money.

Garcia Snyder questioned if loan money had been used this way before. “We never used the
revolving loan fund money to provide seed money for a project that is a Match on Main award. So going
forward, if someone wants to apply for the Match on Main and there might be the possibility that they
don’t have the money to put in the project to get reimbursed, we’re trying to create an avenue so that’s
not a barrier for them,” said Ammerman. No mention was made of whether the EDC would have to
approve the construction companies first before payment. All four board members approved the motion
to allow the use of a revolving loan fund for Match on Main seed money, with contractors being paid
directly to mitigate some risk.

The EDC board also unanimously approved the transfer of $2,750 from the EDC fund to the
Brownfield Fund because of improper coding for payment of training. Ammerman caught the mistake
made in 2022 and said Brownfield funds cannot be used for training. They also unanimously approved an
EGLE Community Management program. The goal of the program is to promote clean water and energy
use and totaled a grant of $25,000. Ammerman hoped to finance the salaries budgeted for the My Hope
project, which, as she stated, also includes building energy efficiency in homes.

Clark raised a concern toward the end of the meeting that people who did not attend meetings
regularly because of work should not be excused. Ammerman said Trevor White said he was not coming
but did not give a specific reason. The motion to excuse Trevor White ended with two nays brought by
Clark and Ben Wallace, and it died on the table. Harvey and Clark said he would call White, talk with him
further, and convey the board’s feelings on the matter.

Visit The Recorder’s Facebook page or the Albion Economic Development’s YouTube page to
review the entire meeting.

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