FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 5, 2022
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Governor Whitmer announces 145 new jobs and critical infrastructure upgrades to support agribusiness and economic growth in Ottawa and Muskegon counties
LANSING, Mich. – Today Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced support from the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) for a major infrastructure project spanning Ottawa and Muskegon counties that will help generate additional investment and jobs in the food and agriculture industries from West Michigan to secure.
The Southeast Regional Force Main project will allow the City of Coopersville to divert wastewater north to the Muskegon County Resource Recovery Center, providing additional wastewater capacity needed to support the continued growth of agricultural employers in the area, including Fairlife, Continental Dairy, DeVries Meats and Applegate Dairy and Swanson Pickle. The project will result in the creation of up to 145 new jobs and a capital investment of up to US$187 million in Ottawa and Muskegon counties.
“These critical infrastructure upgrades will generate $187 million in investments that support 145 jobs in West Michigan’s food and agriculture industries and lay the foundation for strong future growth,” he said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “The construction of the new sewer line will connect employers like Fairlife, Continental Dairy, DeVries Meats, Applegate Dairy and Swanson Pickle with the resources and services they need to grow and expand their businesses. I am proud that Republicans and Democrats have worked together on the Economic Development Toolkit, which has empowered us to build our infrastructure, build much-needed housing developments, and bring new businesses and economic opportunities to rural communities in Ottawa and Muskegon counties . Let’s continue to work together to enable Michigan’s agriculture industry to compete nationally and globally.”
“Working with our partners to ensure Michigan has the updated infrastructure and locations needed to meet the needs of industries such as food processing and related agribusinesses allows us to maintain a strong moat around our Michigan businesses build around and attract new investment for the state,” he said Quentin L. Messer, Jr., CEO of MEDC and President and Chair of the MSF Board. “We appreciate the hard work of the Michigan team, including our partners in the Legislature, the Whitmer-Gilchrist Administration and Lakeshore Advantage, to make this long-needed project a success and to build businesses and residents in Ottawa and Muskegon counties even stronger bringing future economic growth away.”
Investment in the Southeast Regional Force Main project addresses the need to increase wastewater capacity, which has been consistently identified as a growth impediment by local food processors in Ottawa and Muskegon counties. Local food processors and manufacturers are important drivers of the Ottawa County economy, particularly with 4,800 jobs with an average annual wage of $72,000 and industrial investment of $1.5 billion over the past three years.
The proposed solution involves building a sewer line (Southeast Regional Force Main) that connects employers in the Greater Coopersville area to Muskegon County’s Resource Recovery Center (MCRCC). The Southeast Regional Force Main development will dramatically increase carrying capacity and remove the long-standing impediment to growth.
In addition, the new pipeline will serve rural and communities that currently do not have a sewage service provided by the Muskegon Country Resource Recovery Center. In addition to equipping existing employers for growth and expansion, the pipeline also opens up opportunities for much-needed housing development and the attraction of new businesses and housing developments in Ottawa and Muskegon counties.
“This far-reaching rural infrastructure transformation project cements our region’s continued leadership in the food processing and agriculture sectors,” he said Jennifer Owens, President of Lakeshore Advantage. “This project is a major win for all five communities involved, as it will secure well-paying jobs for years to come and open up opportunities for future growth.”
In support of this project, the MSF Board has approved a US$60 million performance-based grant to the Strategic Site Readiness Program, funded through the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (“SOAR”) Fund. In addition, Fairlife is contributing $5 million in support of the project and Applegate Dairy contributed to the initial engineering fees and built a lift station to access Force Main.
Michigan’s robust food and agriculture industry contributes to its proud heritage of making things and caring for its communities. Farms and food processing companies across the state produce and grow essential products and provide tens of thousands of jobs, with the food and agriculture industry contributing $104.7 billion to the state economy annually. With more than 300 agricultural commodities commercially produced in the state, it is also a major export sector, with countries such as Canada, Mexico, Japan and South Korea being the top importers of Michigan produce.
“Michigan’s resilient food and agriculture industry is an economic powerhouse, and with the bipartisan budget investing in farmers and businesses, we are at the forefront of advancing agricultural economic development in the state,” he said Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “Through ongoing partnership and collaboration, we are able to support the critical infrastructure updates needed to grow our agri-food businesses and create high-paying jobs.”
Legislators Voice Support for Main project of the Southeast Regional Force in Michigan:
State Senator Jon Bumstead – R-North Muskegon
“This project is an excellent example of how the government should work to solve a problem and strengthen our state’s economy. Agriculture is one of the largest industries in our state and West Michigan is home to a variety of farms and processors. Approving this sewer line will ensure that the agribusiness in Muskegon and Ottawa counties can continue to operate safely and give it the opportunity to grow and expand here in West Michigan.”
State Senator Roger Victory – R-Hudsonville
“I am thrilled that the Michigan Strategic Fund Board has recommended the Coopersville-Muskegon Pipeline for SOAR funding. This is a project that has been in development for many years and would not be possible without the transparency and flexibility that SOAR has provided for various economic investments.
“This pipeline will have a massive impact on Michigan’s often-overlooked agribusiness. Beyond the immediate local investments and job creation, the pipeline will create opportunities for expansion across the state while enhancing our entire food supply chain. Increased demand for milk will help our suffering dairy farms, while additional protein processing will support Michigan’s pork producers.
“This is exactly the kind of large-scale, multi-community project that SOAR was created for. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Legislature to obtain the necessary legal approval of the SOAR transfer for this transformative and much-needed investment.”
State Assemblyman Luke Meerman – R-Coopersville
“The Coopersville City-Muskegon Wastewater Infrastructure Project is an investment that will allow our city to grow without worrying about overloading our existing infrastructure. Our farming community depends on wastewater treatment to turn our farm produce into food, and this collaboration with Muskegon County will ensure the city can continue to thrive and support our farmers.”
State Assemblyman Terry Sabo – D-Muskegon
“It has taken at least a decade for this project to receive the comprehensive funding it deserves, and I want to give a big thank you to the MEDC and the Southeast Regional Force Main Team for their efforts in bringing these community-changing funds to come to Muskegon County .”
State Assemblyman Greg VanWoerkom – R-Norton Shores
“This transformation project has been discussed for over a decade. It’s time to get this done for West Michigan’s future growth.”