City Manager works to attract businesses despite having limited resources


STANDISH — In the midst of a recession, when jobs are scarce, getting any new commercial business in a city is great news. But when a city, such as Standish, doesn’t have an abundance of money for projects that will really spruce up the city, attracting new businesses is an overbearing obstacle.

But Standish City Manager Mike Moran has some working ideas on how to make the city stand out visually, even without major road and sidewalk projects in the works.

“Our sign ordinance is kind of prohibitive when it comes to putting up brighter signs,” Moran said. “I think some of our street lights are too dim.

“You’ve got to make it (city) aesthetically appealing. … I think it counts a whole lot.”

According to Moran, when businesses are vacant for a long period of time, people begin to ignore them altogether.

“People get used to these vacant businesses and they keep driving past them and soon it’s like they’re not even there,” Moran said, adding tweaking sign ordinances and lighting issues that make an area pop are important to business owners. “If you want to open a business in Standish, because it’s the gateway to the North … and you drive through the city and you can’t see the businesses on one side due to poor lighting, that may make the area lose some appeal.”

The new city manager, who has been at the job since mid-November, also says he would like to take a look at repaving and cleaning up some alleys and parking lots to make rear entrances in the downtown area more accessible and eye-catching; and possibly re-striping some city roads.

“Granted it’s not cheap, but it’s not all that expensive, either,” Moran said, adding he has witnessed other cities grow their downtowns by making alleys that pass by rear entrances convenient for pedestrian traffic.

And for new or existing businesses, he says the city has some good news from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

“They (MEDC) have money from grants so that your downtown development authorities (DDA) can put up all new facades,” he said.

Also, when it comes to an EDC and DDA, Moran says he is working closely with both the Arenac County EDC and the Standish DDA in letting businesses know what options they have in the Standish area.

“What we’re trying to do by working with the EDC, the county and the DDA is to put together a packet with some of that information,” Moran said. “We want to make sure they (business owners in the area/interested in the area) get the packet.

“We’re trying to be as helpful to the businesses as we can.”

Additional selling points Moran says he would use to lure businesses, especially those with families, are the Standish-Sterling Community Schools District and the St. Mary’s of Michigan Standish Hospital. Since the city of Standish has recently gained control of the local Government Access Programming station (channel three on Charter), Moran says he is also hoping that the station can be overhauled and also play a part in enticing businesses.

According to Standish City Assessor Mary Wojtowicz, there are several vacant commercial properties in the City of Standish that could host new businesses, including buildings in the downtown district.

“I think commercial (real estate) is not as stagnant as people say. … I think it’s promising,” Wojtowicz said, adding businesses are migrating to the city already. “We’ve had a new salon come in, we’ve got a new clothing boutique coming in.”

For more information on operating a business in Standish, call 989-846-9588.


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