The allure of the water and beaches is one reason people are drawn to St. Clair County <span class='image-credits'>Jodi Rempala</span>

Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County documents 2017 growth, forecasts even better 2018

Sure, it's Dan Casey's job to get excited about development in St. Clair County. But, to be fair, the county is making it easy for him. As CEO of the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County, Casey has been involved in a period of economic growth.

And he has an even better feeling about 2018, too.

In reviewing the organization's Economic Growth Results from 2017, it's clear that development in St. Clair County, be it commercial, residential, or otherwise, is on a roll. Last year saw the addition of 728 jobs and 256 single family homes and apartment units. There was $70 million in commercial investments, $40.3 million investments in 20 expansion projects for local companies that added more jobs, and $17 million in new business investment. In total, St. Clair County experienced more than $127 million in regional investment.

The report features 14 multi-million dollar projects for 2017, including the $14 million Bluewater View Luxury Condos in Port Huron, a $13 million Love's Travel Stop in Capac, and the $2.1 million St. Clair Place Apartments in St. Clair Township.

There are a lot of reasons for St. Clair County's recent prosperity, says Casey. Take the residential sector, for instance.

"There was a gap there where it didn't make much sense to build new homes. Now that is changing," Casey says. "Home values have gone up across the state of Michigan and land in Saint Clair County is still very affordable when compared to metro Detroit.

"Builders want to build on the fringes that already have infrastructure, but on land that is affordable. We can offer that."

Casey also credits Saint Clair County's location as a boon for development. It's a place with a significant amount of international commerce, possessing one of the five busiest border crossings in North America in the Bluewater Bridge. With 13 unique waterfront communities, it's a tourist destination, and a convenient one at that. Casey says that for a metro Detroiter, why drive five hours to Traverse City when it takes just one hour to get to Saint Clair County.

While shopping malls are in decline nationwide, the country's more traditional downtowns are making a comeback as shopping destinations. Boutiques, shops, and restaurants are taking off in places like Port Huron and Marine City. And people want to live and stay downtown again, too. One of the projects highlighted in their report is the redevelopment of the Ballentine Building in downtown Port Huron, a $1.1 million project that will convert the historic building into 19 loft residential units.

Another downtown Port Huron project, the conversion of the Michigan National Bank building into a CityFlatsHotel location, should be completed this year. In landing the hip boutique hotel chain, Casey says that Port Huron is the envy of a number of Michigan cities that would also like a CityFlatsHotel of their own.

It's another win for St. Clair County, a place that Casey believes will take the successes of 2017 and build on them in 2018.

"There are numerous projects that have been announced or that will be this year. I'm looking at the future and it's looking bright," Casey says. "There are easily a dozen projects currently in the works.

"This is a time where growth is happening with the potential for more growth to occur."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.
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