Governor Lauds City at Special Graduation
Harrison Is 5th Project Rising Tide Graduate
By Dianne Alward-Biery
Cleaver Staff Writer
Copyright Clare County Cleaver
HARRISON – When Harrison City Manager and Clerk Tracey Beadle announced in August 2015 that the City of Harrison had been selected as one of the 10 communities to participate in Gov. Rick Snyder’s Project Rising Tide initiative, it marked a turning point for Harrison. It also implied a dynamic economic upswing could be on the near horizon.
Each selected Rising Tide city represented one the state’s 10 Prosperity Regions. Harrison is in Region 5, which is comprised of Arenac, Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Isabella, Midland and Saginaw counties. The project combined the efforts of the city, the state’s Department of Talent and Economic Development team, and multiple other stakeholders.
When the governor visited Harrison Sept. 1, 2016, he heard from community leaders and representatives from education, community services, business, law enforcement and community development. Each contributed a piece to the whole picture of what Harrison had, needed and desired to become.
In the two years that followed the original announcement, the City of Harrison has met the specific goals set out by the program and has, in turn, received the necessary resources to help identify specific needs and goals, and was provided strategies and training to develop a solid base from which the plans could grow.
With the successful completion of Project Rising Tide in Harrison, Gov. Snyder returned to the city May 24 to preside over the fifth Rising Tide graduation in Harrison City Hall. He was introduced by Jeremy Hendges, Chief Deputy Director for the Department of Talent and Economic Development, who described his department’s part in the project as bringing technical support and bringing the community together.
“Rising Tide is actually, in my opinion, one of the coolest things we do at all in the department,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to engage communities and help them build their vision. There are so many great things going on in Harrison, and driving through the town you can see the difference in the energy from just a few years ago.”
Hendges described the project as having been from the governor’s vision a few years ago when he spoke of the River of Opportunity and making sure the economic recovery seen in certain areas of the state made it to every corner of the state.
The governor began by saying: “It’s a Pure Michigan day, isn’t it?”
Snyder said it was great to be back and noted some of the many changes which have taken place in Harrison in a relatively short time frame, most obviously the city hall building which had not existed at his previous visit. He joked that the paint was still drying on the Market when he visited in 2016.
“We initially did our work in more urban areas, particularly Detroit,” Snyder said. “But Michigan’s a lot more than just our big cities, so I thought it was really important that we try to reach out and help people in every corner of Michigan that we could.”
The governor said he was proud to say that half the first class of 10 Rising Tide communities were now graduated. HE went on to describe the project as having provided economic, community and talent development people, and whatever else was needed to help the city through the process.
“It’s worked out well in my view,” Snyder said. “You should be very proud of what you’ve accomplished. It’s very exciting to see, so I want to congratulate you: the people of Harrison and the surrounding township. I know you’ve had good community support beyond the city limits, and that’s about how people work together.”
The governor reminded that being a part of Project Rising Tide included the follow-up request that Harrison be willing to help another community in the region.
“So we’re going to take you up on that,” he said. “We’ve got a couple communities that will be part of the program, and we’ll ask you if you can provide some advice and talk about your experience here – and help your neighbors. That’s how Michigan should be.”
Snyder acknowledged all the time, hard work and effort required to achieve what Harrison has, and that his part was getting to show up and do the listening, and at graduation.
“But you’ve done the hard work,” he said. “We’re happy to continue to support you in watching great success go on in Harrison. I would encourage you not to get complacent with what you have accomplished. Stay on the gas, and don’t take too much time to talk about how good things are. Just keep pushing harder and finding new ways to make it better and better. That’s the spirit of a Michigander, too.”
Also speaking during the event were Stacy Stocking, mayor of the City of Harrison; Tracey Connelly, city manager and clerk; and Angela Kellogg, owner/editor of the Clare County Cleaver and support services librarian at Harrison District Library.
The mayor’s comments began with reference to the governor’s past initiative that communities work with other communities, cities, agencies and townships.
“We took that very seriously,” he said. “With law enforcement, road commissions, and we’ve forged a great relationship with Hayes Township which surrounds us. We work very well together. So when we rolled into Project Rising Tide, it was kind of natural for us because we had already started that journey.”
The mayor thanked the governor, the Rising Tide Team and the tech team for standing behind and believing in the city. He also thanked them for providing opportunities which the small town of Harrison might never otherwise have had.
Referencing “a rising tide lifts all boats,” Stocking said he believes Harrison’s “boat has set sail to a body of water with an endless horizon.”
It has been shown that manufacturers are now more inclined to invest where the work force is, and to that end, planning in Harrison has continued its focus on being a recreational hub, but also has expanded toward creating a desirable place to raise a family which would, in turn, create that desirable work force.
Tracey Connelly enthusiastically enumerated the many projects Harrison and Hayes Township which surrounds it have taken on in an effort to create such a desirable locale, many of which were worked on because of Rising Tide.
“When Rising Tide came to us, we were starting to revitalize our downtown, and we were able to expand on that greatly because of all the support we have,” Connelly said.
Items she listed were many: Harrison City Market with its Retail Incubator which will have a new business to move in this month, the market’s commercial kitchen which is being used by cottage industry people, and the Farmers Market which has been growing. She went on to list downtown beautification; streetscaping; traffic calming; bike lanes; welcome signs at the three entrances to the city; the remodeling of the Surrey House by Harrison District Library which will preserve a historic downtown building;
She said the city’s improvements have enticed other businesses to improve themselves as well, such as the big construction renovation of the Sunrise Marathon station and the remodeling being done at Rite Aid and McDonald’s. Connelly also spoke of the old city hall which had been sold to Harrison Lumber enabling the business to expand. She also noted the planned construction later this summer of the Town Square which will include an entertainment pavilion, splash pad, digital sign and town clock plus landscaping throughout
Connelly also spoke of the city’s partnership with the schools and the resultant Safe Routes to School sidewalks project as a second phase of the Bike-able Walk-able Community effort.
She said word had been received recently that we’re going to be getting funding for the third phase which will go toward a trail behind City Park, including bike ramps, and will connect to the Safe Routes to School. The beach mat installed at Wilson for disabled access to the lake was noted, as well as the new playground equipment erected in City Park, along with Jonah Cesal’s Eagle Scout project which provided an adjacent wheelchair accessible swing.
“The SAW grant, we’re going great guns with that,” Connelly said. She went on to describe the SAW grant inventorying of infrastructure, televising and cleaning of the sewer system, GISing of water mains, and the resultant computer data which can be accessed by workers in the field.
She also spoke of the recent $2 million Infrastructure Capacity Enhancement grant which will provide for replacement of lift stations and enlarging of water mains. Connelly mentioned the annual Wellhead Protection grant which informs and educates children and adults about the need to protect their drinking water which literally lies beneath their feet.
The new city hall and department of public works structure was cited next, along with the Hayes Municipal Complex which includes a gym, workout facility, and a designation of emergency shelter.
The city’s actions to remedy blight were noted, including the hiring of a code enforcement officer, razing of two blighted buildings (with two more anticipated). Connelly said the code and blight work had spurred a 35 percent increase in building permits for new construction or remodeling.
She also informed that work with broadband providers has resulted in 93 percent of Clare County having access to some type of internet.
Connelly said the city had also updated its Parks and Rec Plan, Walkable Bikeable Plan, Master Plan, DDA Plan, zoning ordinances and Capital Improvement Plan. She also noted the city’s new branding and updated logo.
“So we’ve been busy with all that,” she said. “I want to thank the Rising Tide Initiative for all their help in reaching our goals. We reached them much quicker with all of this help.”
Kellogg spoke not only as a City Council member, but as the most recent caretaker of The Clare County Cleaver, the oldest continuously running business in not only Harrison, but in Clare County.
“Being in a Rising Tide community in a community truly on the rise is exciting,” she said. “When I heard that Rising Tide analogy, there’s no business that fits it better than a newspaper. If businesses in the area are healthy, the newspaper will be; businesses are our number one customer, which allows us to spread other news to the community.”
Kellogg talked about the excitement of seeing new businesses coming to Harrison and the expansion of existing businesses.
“So that’s what I did when I purchased The Clare County Cleaver last year,” she said. “It’s been running straight for 137 years, since July 1881 – no pressure, right?”
Joking aside, Kellogg said she was confident in Harrison and what she had seen over 10 years working for Harrison District Library.
“I felt confident doing that, and with programs like Rising Tide to help us, give us the tools we may not have locally, we hope to continue to rise and to support the community,” she said. “And to be the community’s largest cheerleader. This is small town living, and I think it’s what we all want.
“It’s just such a boost of confidence when you have the support of not just City Council or your neighbors, but the governor and all the resources that Rising Tide brought to us. So, thank you very much, and hopefully we will all rise together.”
When it came time for bestowing a gift commemorating the Project Rising Tide graduation, Snyder also was enthusiastic about its symbolism and the implications the city’s achievements for the future.
“It is literally a compass,” Snyder said. “The point of the compass is not so you can look backwards, but so you can look forward – to some exciting things and a wonderful future here. Congratulations.”
In his closing remarks, Hendges said the list Connelly had rattled off was a tribute to everybody in the community and the work it does together.
The other four cities which have become Rising Tide graduates are Charlotte (Nov. 9, 2017); River Rouge (Dec. 21, 2017); Grayling (Feb. 15); and Paw Paw (March 5). The remaining Rising Tide cities are Central Lake, Evart, Hillsdale, Newberry and Sandusky.
Being fifth of 10 essentially places Harrison at the crest of the Rising Tide wave and in fine position to catch a primo wave into its future.