Heights City Council, City Manager Discuss Shaking “Old Foundry Town” Reputation

Andrew Trzaska | October 24, 2011

In a review of goals set back in January by the Muskegon Heights City Council, multiple council members spoke Monday about their visions for the future of the city’s economic development.

Ahead of Monday’s full council meeting, City Manager Natasha Henderson revisited the four focus areas the council defined in a planning workshop at the start of their 2011 fiscal year in January: fiscal responsibility, infrastructure, blight elimination and marketing.

Tying into the marketing goal, Henderson spoke about economic development of the city and recommended the council assess their visions of the future of the city from an economic development perspective.

Henderson’s recommendation to the council was to work on shaking Muskegon Heights’ reputation as an “old foundry town”.

Citing Lift-Tech, a once-major employer who closed their Muskegon Heights operations in 2009, Henderson stated that good opportunities with similar companies are becoming fewer and further between:
“[Companies like Lift-Tech] are not growth areas at this point,” said Henderson. “They are such a hard sell.”

Instead, Henderson recommended the city look at “environmentally friendly” and non-contaminating companies as candidates to

Spinning out of Henderson’s recommendations, multiple council members expressed their own visions.
Councilwoman Dorothy Scott discussed the city and county’s brain drain.  Scott suggested recruiting companies that work with 21st century technologies could reverse the loss of young, college educated people from the city.

“Maybe we can get them to come back,” said Scott.

Citing jobs and an increased tax base, Councilman Keith Guy voiced support for not just environmentally friendly businesses but any businesses that could come to town.

Henderson recommended the city focus on getting small businesses to locate in Muskegon Heights, utilizing the city’s revolving loan fund to help.

Revamping the city’s sale inspection process, plus being more hands-on with the Downtown Development Authority and Muskegon Area First are other points Henderson recommended the council to explore.

Next year’s goals will be completely set after the start of the next fiscal year.  By that time, a new council will be set after November 8’s city elections, and a new budget will be set as well.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst