It would appear, in looking out my office window, that spring has arrived.  The sun is gleaming off of the clock face at the corner of Hamlin and S. Main.  That is a fantastic thing.  I have been hearing the sand-hill cranes, a sure sign, in the swamps and fields as I deliver my meals on my meals on wheels route.  Incidentally, if you are looking for a fantastic way to help out your neighbors, consider becoming a meals on wheels driver.  It takes up very little of your day and it’s a great way to give back to your neighbors.  I have been a meals on wheels driver for 17 years.  Every Wednesday.  But you don’t have to have that level of commitment.  Some folks participate only as needed.  Contact the tri county office on aging for additional information.

Now, onto the Michigan Main Street program update-drum roll please.  We made it! After months of hard work by several of our community members the City of Eaton Rapids received notification from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation that we have achieved select level status. Eaton Rapids joins 24 other cities in reaching this pinnacle.  We don’t have time to rest on our laurels. The real work is just beginning.  The DDA will be selecting a Michigan Main Street Director in the next few weeks and it will be full speed ahead toward Economic Development and a resurgence of “our community.” To all of you, thanks.  There are many tasks ahead but I have confidence that the ‘We R ER” community will work diligently to surmount them.

Our asset of the month is small businesses.  In the state of Michigan a small business is defined as one that employees less than 500 people. It excludes government entities.  Currently, there are 856,273 small businesses in the state of Michigan.  Of that, how many small businesses exist in the City of Eaton Rapids?

Answer, every single one. From Meridian Magnesium to Mark’s Place. Pettit hardware, Darb’s, Abie’s, the Eaton Rapids Medical Center, Kitsmiller Insurance, the locker room. Your creative escape and rooster hill.  On and on goes our list. Many of these are businesses that you can walk in and see the person, whose name appears on the sign out front, working behind the counter. 

We, as residents and consumers, need to make every effort to become familiar with our local businesses. Whether they be retail, service related or industrial they are employers, our neighbors and, in many cases, our friends.  Nothing is sadder than the windows of an empty building staring back at you.  When you see your reflection in that empty window I want you to ask yourself a question “if I had shopped locally could I have made a difference?” 

The answer is, invariably “yes!”  I often hear that the limited choices make it more convenient to shop elsewhere.  That, sadly can be true.  But, part of the Michigan Main Street Program will encourage retail development and job creation and retention. 

We have to do better.  Many of you work outside of the city of Eaton Rapids.  You come home to closed businesses and rolled up sidewalks. Michigan Main Street will help us promote the premise that “Lansing has you from 8-5.  It’s what Eaton Rapids can provide you from 5-8 that matters.”  So, let’s pull together and make it work.

When I chose to seek your votes to become the Mayor of this community I was very clear that a part of my agenda was economic growth and a desire to make Eaton Rapids a more attractive place to live.  The two components cannot be separated.  Making the community more attractive draws additional residents and developers.  This, in turn expands our business opportunities which will attract tourists.  Additional tourists and recreational opportunities brings additional revenue to not only existing businesses but is attractive to businesses wishing to relocate and those wishing to expand. That brings jobs and economic vitality.  Jobs and economic vitality allows for expansion of city services. Expanded city services means better customer service. Better customer service means a higher standard of living for all of us.

I will take “the hit” for the cleanup initiative. I worked with my building inspector and asked him what we needed to do to improve the community from an aesthetic perspective. He told me.  I worked with the council to pass a more comprehensive ordinance to allow for not only enforcement but education of our residents on what needed to be done. I listened to you and we are expanding our façade and curb appeal grants process to make it more feasible for many of you to do that project that was just out of reach.  I have heard the, “what are you going to do with the Horner property?”  We are working on a number of projects in that area.  In order to attract a large developer that is willing to spend millions of dollars we, as homeowners, landlords, renters and tenants have to take that first step to demonstrate that we care about our town.  I care about our town.

The vast majority of the property maintenance letters that went out, except in very severe cases, let you know that you have until October to address your particular issue. That’s roughly 7 months, give or take a day.  Let’s all pull together and get it done.

As always, live, play, recreate and take the opportunity to explore your community.  The river is open, I had my first paddle the other day. It was glorious.