In January of 2016 the concept of a group dedicated to a round-table discussion on creating a more business friendly environment in the Sault Ste. Marie area met for the first time. This group was eventually labeled as the Economic Resource Alliance or ERA for short. With the sentiment that starting a business in the region has too many hurdles the group began to discuss how to remove these
hurdles. This open discussion, relaxed environment, allowed for the discussion of the best people that could help. The group has grown to include the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation, Sault Area Chamber of Commerce, Sault Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Chippewa County Health Department, Downtown Development Authority, EUP Regional Planning Commission, Small Business Development Center of Michigan, Sault Tribe Economic Development, Community Development, SSM City Manager, and a City Commission Liaison. Points of discussion have included attracting large scale employers to the area, filling vacant buildings throughout the City, assisting property owners in better marketing their properties, establishing the Concierge Program, and working on plans to bring in the ever requested movie theater.
Through these discussions and collaborative work, the group has been able to showcase properties throughout the City to prospective developers through the Concierge Program; this has even included properties in the Air Industrial Park. Members of the group have had discussions with several theater groups about moving to the area and establishing a new theater. We have also had the opportunity to hear constructive feedback from business owners on how to create a more business friendly Sault. Justin Fisher from North of Chicago Pizza spoke to the group shortly before opening. Ken Hopper from Bird's Eye Outfitters has also spoken to the group. Through gaining this feedback directly from business owners several things have been accomplished, such as connecting the business owners with the people that are available to answer questions and the creation of the Chippewa County Health Department Food License FAQ sheet.
Though the process of starting a new business or expanding a current one can sometimes feel cumbersome, the ERA has been able to bring those concerns directly to the local officials that oversee those processes. Many of these officials have worked to make the timelines and requirements for these processes more transparent so business owners know what to expect and how soon they can expect results.
We are always looking for feedback on how to better serve our community. When it comes to supporting area businesses or attracting new ones, we want the Sault to be as business friendly as possible. If you would like to give use some feedback send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, it just may be something that will be discussed at our next ERA meeting.