This year, Economic Development Corporation Michigan City (EDCMC) is marking its Silver Anniversary – celebrating 25 years in the community. From helping launch and develop homegrown businesses, offering assistance to international companies looking to make a foothold in the states, to working to analyze and address community needs like hunger, education, and more, EDCMC has become a lynchpin for Michigan City.
Over the years, EDCMC has played a role in billions of dollars’ worth of investment coming to the city, the creation of thousands of jobs, the formation of new education programs and community initiatives, and much more. Clarence Hulse took over as the organization’s executive director nine years ago, playing a big role in that success.
“I feel very fortunate to be the director planning for this anniversary,” Hulse said. “It took the efforts of a lot of people before me to get to this point, so we’re looking back and reflecting on past success and looking into the future and how we can adapt to meet the needs of a new world.”
One of the biggest changes Hulse made as executive director was to expand EDCMC’s focus to include community development. That meant helping to kick start programs to educate children in the trades, beautifying the city, promoting affordable housing, tackling hunger and food scarcity, and expanding childcare.
“One thing that’s different for us compared to most EDCs is that we’ve gotten involved in community development,” Hulse said. “Other ones are strictly creating jobs and investments, staying on the business side. When I got here, I saw we were doing a great job but could be doing even better by connecting with the community. We’ve done child care initiatives, for example, because if people have quality low-cost childcare they’re more likely to go to work.”
Hulse also discussed how community development and business development are deeply entwined as making sure that residents have a high quality-of-life only leads to more economic success down the line.
“We work to rebuild the community and repair broken links within it,” Hulse said. “It makes for a better, more welcoming community, one where people and businesses want to come because they can be part of a city that’s great, organic, and self-sustaining.”
Hulse pointed to many dramatic strides that Michigan City has taken over the last 25 years – particularly downtown as new shops, restaurants, and venues have opened for business.
“When I came to Michigan City, there was still a lot of plywood on the windows downtown,” Hulse said. “I feel grateful to have played some kind of a role in the revitalization of downtown. Over the last eight and a half to nine years, we’ve had over two billion dollars invested in the community both public and private. That’s a lot for a small, 32,000 population Midwestern community.”
Hulse puts a priority on ensuring those investments are equitable – that residents themselves see benefits, be it in the form of those quality-of-life initiatives or in the creation of totally new jobs and services.
“We hope to make sure that kind of money is spent wisely and that everyone in the community has a share,” Hulse said. “Sometimes that’s finding a job that wasn’t there before, starting your own company, creating opportunities to work and enhance what you’re doing or create your own job.”
EDCMC alone can only do so much – Hulse and his team do not create new businesses or programs themselves, they provide the tools, resources, and connections needed to help others take that step. He said that the most important accomplishment over EDCMC’s 25 years, is building such a strong sense of trust within Michigan City.
“Number one is being accountable to the community in learning and morphing to play a key role in moving the community forward,” Hulse said. “Over time, we’ve become the place where people go if they need something done; that doesn’t mean we do it for them, but that we connect them to the people and resources that can make it happen. We’re a connector, a bridge, and that’s the most important role we play.”
Building those bridges is a process that never stops, Hulse said, and is critical to being an active problem-solver within the community.
“We’re looking to find ways to enhance what we do,” Hulse said. “That means building new partnerships, growing current ones, and making sure we’re hearing what employers are saying, helping them solve problems, and being there for our local industries and residents. We need to be proactive, rather than reactive, reaching out to partners across the US and the world to find creative solutions.”
The economy, workplaces, employee/employer relationships, they are all things that are evolving at a rapid rate. Hulse mentioned that the key to EDCMC’s future success is working with businesses and organizations to make sure they understand and adapt to every new development in a responsible way.
“We’re really focusing on how we work with industries in the future because things are changing,” Hulse said. “Your culture, your management and manufacturing processes, these are all things that have to change. We need to work with companies to make sure we respond to these developments in the right way, in a sustainable way for our community in the long-term.”
The next few years are a critical time in Michigan City’s history with the South Shore Double Track poised to be a major catalyst for growth. Hulse is eager to reflect on past success, but is even more thrilled at what’s to come.
“I’m proud of the EDCMC and what we’ve been able to accomplish for the last 25 years,” Hulse said. “This was a good idea begun by Mayor Sheila Brillson. It was her brainchild, a partnership between the city and industry that’s survived the test of time. We’ve had a wonderful 25 years, but the next 25 years are going to really explode and make Michigan City the jewel of the Midwest – THE place to be.”
Join EDCMC at Blue Chip Casino on July 21 at 5:30 p.m. for their Silver Anniversary Gala & Investment Awards, and learn more and get tickets at edcmc.com.