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Economic Development

10/11/2019: Final harbor study meetings set for Oct. 15

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s Office of the Great Lakes has scheduled the meeting to further engage with community members and develop long-term, sustainable strategies that will enable the local communities to maximize the benefits of their harbor and waterfront assets.

4/11/2019: Trail between Niles, Berrien Springs taking shape

Herald Palladium - 

The reality of a walking/biking trail between Niles and Berrien Springs is still years and millions of dollars away, but planning is underway, thanks to a grant received by the Be Healthy Berrien organization.

Be Healthy Berrien Director Heather Cole and Southwest Michigan Planning Commission Planner Marcy Hamilton attended the Berrien Township Board meeting on Tuesday to update members about plans for the proposed trail.

As currently envisioned, the trail will run north from Plym Park on the north side of Niles, to Berrien Springs along the old interurban right-of-way. Most of that right-of-way is now owned by American Electric Power and is parallel to and west of M-139, headed toward Berrien Springs.

3/30/2019: Missing piece of River Valley Trail falls into place, will connect path from Niles to Mishawaka

South Bend Tribune - NILES — A missing mile of the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail is scheduled to be filled in this year, giving walkers, runners and cyclists a continuous 17-mile path from Niles to Mishawaka.

Work to complete the last link of the trail in Niles Township could possibly begin this spring and finish up by fall, a township official said.

3/27/2019: Berrien County dreams of trails, like a link from Niles to Berrien Springs

South Bend Tribune - 

More than 100 people came to Andrews University on a cold February night — more than anyone expected — to talk about safe routes to walk and bike through Berrien County.

I found a group of real estate agents who said they see a positive effect of trails on property values. I found Frank Beltran, manager of the Candlewood Estates in Stevensville, who runs on trails but also sees them as a draw for his hotel customers.

They came to Berrien Springs to help update a five-year master plan for the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, not just for Berrien but for Cass and seven counties in all. The document should be finished by the fall, a heads-up to others who work on trails and on-road routes and to state road officials — so they can see what else is in the works. Ultimately, senior planner Marcy Hamilton says, “There has to be someone locally who champions it.”

3/10/2019: Berrien gets behind Marquette trail project

Herald Palladium - Marcy Hamilton, with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, spoke with county commissioners to update them on the project conceived with Harbor Country Trails, and to solicit their support.

The trail starts in Chicago’s Calumet Park, running along the lakeshore and through the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and would cover 58 miles when extended to New Buffalo.

Having non-motorized trails helps retain families, businesses and young professionals, Hamilton said, along with promoting tourism, increasing tax revenue and encouraging physical activity. Studies show that having a more walkable community increases home values.

Surveys show that people want more park areas and walking and jogging trails, Hamilton illustrated.

10/12/2018: Twin Cities residents envision vibrant waterfront

Herald Palladium -  Those who attended the last of the three meetings this week on the Twin Cities Harbor plan got to take a leap more than 20 years into the future.

And what did they see in Twin Cities Harbor 2040?

10/10/2018: Connecting the dots: SJ-BH waterfront meetings continue tonight, Thursday

Herald Palladium -  Participants in the latest public meeting on the Twin Cities Sustainable Harbor Project had an opportunity Tuesday to mark off the types of development they would like to see along the waterfront, and consider how to connect those elements.

This was the first design “charrette,” held at the Kinexus building in Benton Harbor, to gather input from residents, and will be followed by an open house at tonight and a final meeting Thursday, both at 6 p.m.

That final proposal will result from the ideas generated at the gatherings, said Don Carpenter, one of the planners organizing the project.

9/15/2018: Napier sidewalk plan calls for three-lane road

The recently completed Napier Avenue Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan calls for the heavily trafficked road to be changed to three lanes and for bike lanes to be added.

A draft of the final report is now complete and contains a series of recommended improvements along auto-oriented Napier Avenue. The portion of the street in question – between the St. Joseph River and I-94 – is considered an important east-west transportation route in Berrien County due to its proximity to the highway and M-139 commercial district.

9/11/2018: Downtown, harbor studies on tap for St. Joseph

Herald Palladium -  Commissioners also heard a proposal from the Twin Cities Sustainable Harbor Project to hold meetings to discuss development along the area’s waterfront.

The recommendations include a one-day open session Sept. 19, and a three-day “charrette” for community members to offer ideas for improvements, to be held Oct. 9-11, all starting at 6 p.m. All gatherings will take place at Kinexus, 499 W. Main St., Benton Harbor.

Don Carpenter, project manager, said it will be “a grassroots effort to come up with a shared vision” for the harbor.

9/9/2018: Pumping life back into Pipestone Environmental restoration tied to economic revitalization

Herald Palladium - Clean a creek, restore a commercial corridor. Those are the ultimate goals of the project to revitalize both Ox Creek and the area along Pipestone Road, being undertaken with the leadership of the Berrien County drain office and the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.

Don Brookfield, owner of Brookfield Dodge, at 1845 Pipestone Road, is working on plans to add rain gardens and other amenities on his lot to better manage water flowing from his lot into the nearby creek.

8/6/2018: Effort underway to restart harbor planning process

Herald Palladium - “The idea is to facilitate long-term sustainable strategies that benefit Michigan’s Great Lakes coastal communities,” he said of the initiative, which is funded through the Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University and the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes.

The initiative seeks to continue the work of the Twin Cities Harbor Study, which was completed by the Andrews University Department of Architecture and Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in 2015.

2/9/2018: Sidewalks, restaurants top Stevensville Master Plan

Herald Palladium- Investing more in sidewalks and attracting more restaurants were the two highest requests as planners put together the Stevensville Master Plan.

On Wednesday, village trustees approved distributing the plan’s draft for public comment.

“We want everyone to look at it and public comments will be presented at a public hearing,” said Ryan Fellows, associate planner with Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, the agency hired to assemble the plan.

11/8/2017: Commission developing strategy for economic development

In spite of the many differences between residents of Cass, Berrien and Van Buren counties, a strong, resilient economy that helps draw and retain talented professionals is a rising tide that lifts all boats in southwest Michigan.

To that end, governmental and business leaders across the three counties spent the better part of 2017 working with members of Southwest Michigan Planning Commission to develop a strategy on how to achieve that goal. Now, local residents will have a chance to share their thoughts and opinions on how to improve the region’s economic fortunes as well.

The SWMPC is seeking public comment on its recently completed Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy report, a document that details a shared economic vision and plan for the tri-county region. From now through Dec. 1, people may submit feedback on the plan, by emailing SWMPC Associate Planner Ryan Fellows at fellowsr@swmpc.org or by mailing the SWMPC office 376 W. Main St., Suite 130, Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651.

A copy of the CEDS report can be found online at www.swmpc.org/ceds.asp 


7/5/2019: Website promotes cleaner water, better beaches

The Herald Palladium - 

A family packs up and heads to the beach on Lake Michigan for a long-planned vacation. When they get there they learn that the water has been closed to swimmers because of contamination by E.coli, which can cause illness if swallowed.

This is an aggravation and an inconvenience for the family, but it is also a symptom of the larger issue of water quality in the rivers and streams that flow into Lake Michigan, the source of our drinking water.

The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, based in Benton Harbor, has posted a new website, BetterBeachesSWMI.org, that outlines the goal of improving water quality from Stevensville to the Indiana state line.

1/27/2019: Smithsonian program teaches residents how to save water, benefit property

Matt Meersman, director of the St. Joseph River Basin Commission, and Kris Martin, an associate
planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, shared a variety of ways residents
can benefit their watershed, their property and their finances during a Flow in the St. Joseph
presentation Thursday night at the Niles District Library. The program was part of the
Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit which runs through Feb. 16.

So what is a watershed and why does it matter? A watershed is all the land that flows to a body
of water. In Michiana, the St. Joseph Watershed is the third largest watershed that pours into
Lake Michigan. That means the efforts of Michiana residents can make a great impact on
protecting and preserving the bodies of water. Meersman and Martin shared some simple ways
that residents can invest in the watershed and benefit their property, too.

1/11/2019: Berrien residents asked to 'Keep it Blue' by recycling

Herald Palladium - In the wake of an illegal diesel fuel dump into a storm drain in Bainbridge Township, Berrien County officials want residents to keep hazardous materials out of the sewers, and to know there is a proper way to dispose of these types of materials.

The Berrien County Drain Commissioner’s office reminds residents that storm water, or rain water, flows into the storm drains at street corners, or into roadside ditches.

9/9/2018: Clearwater revival Plans call for cleaning up Ox Creek and revitalizing Pipestone corridor

Herald Palladium- It’s the dirtiest creek in Southwest Michigan, and one of the  dirtiest in Michigan, meandering through an ocean of concrete and asphalt around Pipestone Road that allows rain water and pollutants to pour into the tributary.

It’s Ox Creek, which flows through Benton Township and Benton Harbor until it reaches the Paw Paw River, which runs into the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan.

When Ox Creek is flowing fast from storm run-off, it only takes two hours for contaminants to reach the lake and beaches, according to Christopher Quattrin, Berrien County’s drain commissioner.

8/9/2018: Ox Creek Watershed now online

The website for the Ox Creek Watershed has gone live.

Visit www.sustainoxcreek.org for information on the Ox Creek Watershed Improvement Plan and what steps are being taken to improve water quality, according to a press release from the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.

7/6/2018: 'Keep It Blue' Event hopes to educate residents on keeping water clean

Herald Palladium - When most of us think of water pollution, we picture big industrial operations dumping waste into rivers and lakes.

But according to the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, more than 60 percent of water pollution now comes from residential sources, such as cars leaking oil, failing septic systems and fertilizers from lawns, gardens and farms.

5/10/2018: Guarding the Great Lakes

Herald Palladium- Jon Allan, director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, grew up in northeastern Ohio and remembers when the river near his home ran blue or orange, depending on what kinds of industrial waste were being dumped in the water that day. Speaking as part of the Clean Water Summit, hosted by Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum at Weko Beach Wednesday, Allan also recalled that 40 years ago bulldozers were removing piles of dead fish from Great Lakes shorelines. Before the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, there was “not much” in place to protect the environment, Allan said.

11/11/2017: Ribbon cut on Syndicate Park project to preserve sand dunes, houses

Herald Palladium- The group met Thursday at the foot of the dune for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the accomplishments made so far to prevent the dune from encroaching

further into the subdivision.

11/10/2017: Valuable dunes need to be protected, experts say

Herald Palladium- The dunes along western Lake Michigan are a gold mine for recreation, tourism and quality of life for residents, and need to be preserved for future

generations, according to experts speaking at the Heritage Museum in St. Joseph Thursday.
At a presentation titled “Loving Our Dunes to Death? Balancing Enjoyment with Conservation,” panelists discussed recent research into the value that Michiganders
place on these unique geological features.
We have the largest freshwater dunes in the world, said Robert Richardson, a professor of environmental economics at Michigan State University.


9/25/2018: Plotting a Bright Future on Mulitple Fronts is a big job for an award winning team.

Moody on the Market - A hearty, and extremely focused and busy team comprised of a dozen professionals earned its way onto the inaugural list of the Fifteen Under 15 Best Businesses in the region by essentially "fitting the criteria perfectly." That was the opening shot over the bow by the person nominating the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in downtown Benton Harbor.


6/7/2019: SWMPC hosts non-motorized transportation summit at SMC

The Leader - Cass County community members poured over large maps inside of Southwestern Michigan College’s Fred L. Mathews Library Conference Room. Working in groups of five or six, those in the library labeled the maps in different colors to indicate where pedestrian and biking paths currently exist the in the county and where community members think they are needed.

The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission visited SMC to host a non-motorized transportation summit. The summit allowed for residents to participate in a discussion about the potential for bicycling and pedestrian facilities in Cass County. Facilities can include paved shoulders on existing roads and off-road trails to be used by cyclists and pedestrians.

12/27/2018: Keeping the Pere Marquette on track

Herald Palladium - The Pere Marquette Amtrak train – which runs from Chicago through St. Joseph and Bangor to Holland and Grand Rapids – could run out of steam in the future, and local planners are taking steps now to make sure it keeps running.

Last week, the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study passed resolutions in support of keeping the passenger rail line operating, and also recommended a study of connecting the tracks in New Buffalo to increase service.

12/26/2018: TwinCATS to decide on road funding

Herald Palladium - Federal funding for nine area road projects will be approved at the the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study review committee meeting at 9:20 a.m. Monday on Jan. 14, 2019 at Kinexus at Main St. and Riverview Drive in Benton Harbor.

Projects have been proposed by the Berrien County Road Department, Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Bridgman and Stevensville. Residents can comment online on the projects as they are reviewed.

Over the next four years TwinCATS will receive around $3.9 million in Federal Surface Transportation Block Grant funding to award to road or transit agencies within its boundaries. The funds must be used on federal aid eligible roads or for transit capital projects, and require local matching funds.

9/23/2018: From Benton Harbor to South Bend and back Study proposes transit system to connect more people to destinations

Herald Palladium - Imagine getting on a public bus in Watervliet and riding it to South Bend with stops in Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Berrien Springs and Niles.

Or imagine riding a public bus from Benton Harbor to the Michigan City, Ind., South Shore Line train station, where you can catch a train into Chicago to watch a White Sox game.

That could become a reality if Berrien County’s four bus service providers merge into one entity, said Pat Brandstatter, chairman of the Transportation Steering Committee, which was put together in part by Michigan’s Great Southwest Strategic Leadership Council (MGSSLC).

4/4/2018: Planners want more feedback on Napier Avenue

Herald Palladium -  The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, having hosted a well-attended Napier Avenue Pedestrian & Bicycle Plan public open house in March, is seeking additional public feedback.

The Napier Avenue Pedestrian & Bicycle Plan is a community-driven plan to transform Napier Avenue into a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly roadway. The planning team would like to hear from as many area residents, business owners, and users of the road as possible in order to gather a more complete picture of specific issues along the corridor. Web-based and paper surveys are available which allow residents to give their feedback.

3/27/2018: Napier pedestrian plan under review Residents provide input at open house

Herald Palladium - In a packed room at the Overflow Church, more than two dozen people came together Monday to discuss a Benton Township street that’s been a problem for years.

AECOM, an engineering firm hired to gauge residential preferences regarding sidewalks along Napier Avenue, held an public open house at the Benton Township church to discuss the Napier Avenue Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan.

Jeromie Winsor, an AECOM senior planner, led a presentation about Napier and provided statistics on the troubled roadway.

3/20/2018: Napier Ave. safety under the microscope SWM Planning Commission to hold 'open house' meeting

Herald Palladium - 

Adding sidewalks and bike ways to improve safety along Napier Avenue will be the topic of a public open house meeting Monday.

The meeting to discuss the Napier Avenue Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan will be held from 4-7 p.m. at Overflow Community Church at 300 E. Napier Ave. in Benton Township. Presentations will be held at 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Denise Cook, St. Joseph Township manager and Napier Steering Committee member, said the corridor lacks sidewalks and crosswalks for the majority of its length.

1/26/2018: Bailing out Berrien Bus

Herald Palladium - Berrien Bus, the county’s public transportation system, continues to sputter along, and is in need of a major overhaul, the Board of Commissioners were told Thursday.

It’s not the first time that commissioners have been informed of the dire straits faced by Berrien Bus. A 2014 report said public transportation across the county is inadequate and inefficient. The study recommended a consolidation of the county’s operation with Twin Cities Area Transportation Authority (serving Benton Harbor, St. Joseph and surrounding areas), and Niles and Buchanan Dial-a-Ride.

1/23/2018: Napier sidewalks get fresh look

Herald Palladium- The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and several municipalities are focusing on the lack of sidewalks along the Napier corridor in Benton and St. Joseph townships.

Napier, which has four lanes and a 40-mph speed limit, is getting more attention following the death of a 21-year-old St. Joseph man who was struck and killed by a car along the busy road on Friday night. Brian Elftmann was walking westbound along Napier when he was hit by a car heading the same direction.

12/25/2017: The Green Mile plus 57 Trail boosters excited about NB-Chicago plan

The Herald Palladium- The Marquette Greenway is a planned 58-mile trail from Chicago’s Calumet Park through northwestern Indiana to downtown New Buffalo. About 28 miles of the 10-foot wide path have either been built or funded.Marcy Hamilton, senior planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, said her organization has been a “convener” in the process – helping bring people together, including the many units of government along the Michigan route.

This page last updated on 9/26/2014.
Southwest Michigan Planning Commission  
376 West Main Street  Suite 130  Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651
Phone: 269.925.1137  Fax: 269.925.0288  

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