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EDA lands $3.4 million federal grant for new building

A not-yet-finalized rendering of the front of the new EDA building on Desmond Landing by Infuz Architects. | Photo courtesy of Infuz Architects

by Jim Bloch

The Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County has won a $3.4 million grant from the federal government to build a new building near the YMCA on Desmond Landing in downtown Port Huron.

The Economic Development Administration, housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce, provided the grant, which is intended to use the new facility to spur small business services in the county and boost entrepreneurial activity in the region.

Acheson Ventures, LLC will chip in a local match of $743,421. The state of Michigan through Michigan Economic Development Corporation will contribute $101,680 to the project.

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Those contributions will give the EDA more than $4.2 million for the new building. The project is expected to go out for bids this fall.

“EDA of St. Clair County is very grateful to the Economic Development Administration and local partners for this investment which allows us to create a game-changing, south side, entrepreneurial and economic development business center,” said Dan Casey, chief executive officer of the EDA, in a statement. “We are surrounded by neighboring communities in Macomb and Detroit, as well other communities such as Ann Arbor, whom have dramatically grown their region’s overall business climates through modern entrepreneurial facilities, trending technologies and advanced support services.”

The EDA facility will be built on a 1.7 acre parcel facing the St. Clair River. It will join the YMCA and SEMCO’s Harborside Office Building as key developments on the waterfront in south Port Huron. The EDA currently works out of the Municipal Office Center.

Desmond Landing is square one in the European development of Port Huron, the area where one of the earliest settlers, Anselm Petit, cleared land and built a house in 1790. As the decades passed, the area became intensely industrialized.

“The Desmond Landing property served the community as a rail yard, along with other industrial uses, and was cleaned and prepared for new development in the early 2000s,” according to the EDA’s press release. The new facility “will shine a light on the value of revitalizing former industrial sites,” a key focus of the organization. “The EDA of St. Clair County has been aggressively marketing the 40-acre Desmond Landing property to potential developers and investors over the past few years. The construction of the EDA Business Center is expected to accelerate interest in the development of the remaining land.”

The new building will anchor the Port Huron Smartzone, an EDA effort to attract “entrepreneurs, innovators, early and second-stage businesses and assist with workforce development programs, (particularly in manufacturing, robotics, technology, and supply chain sectors),” according to the release. “The EDA Business Center will have a regional focus and will be a one-stop shop for businesses, including startups.”

The local and state participants in the project are optimistic about the impact of the new building on the region’s economic growth.

“Dr. Acheson is very happy to support the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County and the development of the new EDA Business Center to strengthen our region’s business climate,” said Donna Niester, CEO of Acheson Ventures, LLC, in a statement. “We anticipate the construction of EDA’s modern waterfront facility will also generate new interest in the remaining parcels at Desmond Landing,”.

“MEDC was proud to support St. Clair County efforts to leverage critical federal dollars through the U.S. Economic Development Administration, ensuring the community is in a strong position to not only recover from the effects of the pandemic, but also in a position to thrive long term,” said Quentin L. Messer, Jr., CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Chair of the MSF Board. “Congratulations to the team at the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County on receiving this grant that will help our small business and entrepreneurs find success here in Michigan.”

The federal grant was funded under the Assistance to Coal Communities, an initiative designed “to assist communities severely impacted by the declining use of coal through activities and programs that support economic diversification, job creation, capital investment, workforce development, and re-employment opportunities,” according to the press release.

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