The East Lansing Economic Development Corporation met for the first time in several years on Monday. The purpose of the meeting was to approve changes to an agreement between the Michigan Strategic Fund and local partner economic development corporations, including East Lansing’s.
To convene the East Lansing Economic Development Corporation, City Council had to formally name enough new members to it, which Council has been doing via its consent agenda. This then allowed the City’s Director of Planning, Tim Dempsey, to convene the group, of which he is a member.
The group, upon meeting Monday, then had to elect officers. Summer Minnick, an East Lansing resident and Deputy Executive Director of the Michigan Municipal League, was elected President. Alan Conceicao, an East Lansing resident and a project manager for a neurocognitive study at MSU, was elected Vice President. Jeffrey J. Smith, an East Lansing resident and Director of the University Corporate Research Park of the MSU Foundation, was elected Secretary and Treasurer.
Also present as members of the Corporation were Dempsey, Stephanie Pena, East Lansing Finance Director Jill Feldpausch, and East Lansing Community and Economic Development Administrator Lori Mullins. Mullins described herself at the meeting as “between jobs” because she is leaving the City to take a position with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the chief party to the agreement at issue at the meeting. Also serving on the East Lansing Economic Development Corporation are Jim Croom and John Peckham, but they were not in attendance on Monday.
Dempsey explained at the start of the meeting that East Lansing’s Economic Development Corporation was “formed by the City primarily as a conduit for tax-exempt financing.” He explained that occasionally nonprofit organizations ask for the City’s help in obtaining tax-exempt bond financing for construction projects they are undertaking in East Lansing.
Dempsey provided as two examples of this when the State News moved off MSU’s campus to its current location on Grand River Avenue and when the Michigan High School Athletic Association built its state headquarters in East Lansing off Coolidge Road. Dempsey said the East Lansing Economic Development Corporation also assisted Burcham Hills Retirement Center with some of its construction projects.
According to Dempsey, in such circumstances, “the City is really a conduit” for financing. The group does not provide loan guarantees or pledges of revenue. He told the group he thought the last significant action by the group was about a decade ago when it assisted the State News.
Brad Heffner, Associate General Counsel for the Michigan Economic Development Corporate (MEDC), came to the meeting to explain why MEDC is amending the agreement with its partners and to thank the East Lansing group for its cooperation. He said the amendments basically provide for extension of the partnership agreement, more ease in meeting quorum, and greater efficiency in terms of making relatively uncontroversial amendments to the agreement. (For an MEDC-provided summary of the changes to the agreement, click here.)
Heffner said the MEDC sometimes works with local partner economic development corporations, like East Lansing’s, to create fire authorities, library authorities, and the like, for the purposes of helping municipalities manage the financial challenges of providing public services.
Heffner also explained that there are currently 58 local partners to the MEDC, which means he has to go to all of those to obtain approval for the desired amendments to the agreement. If the amendments to the current agreement are accepted by all those groups, amending the agreement in the future will be simpler in many cases. Heffner explained that there are safeguards in place to make sure local partners still have significant authority with regard to the agreement to which they are parties.
According to Heffner, there are “advantages and not much downside to being a local partner” to the MEDC. He noted that many local economic development corporations are like East Lansing’s, meeting only when necessary every few years.
The meeting lasted in total about a half-hour. At the conclusion, Planning Director Dempsey thanked the Corporation members for attending and helping. He noted it was not a huge use of their time, but said “we appreciate you coming out and doing a public duty for the City.”