Business is Good in Eaton Rapids
The downturn in the national economy in 2008 and the devastating effect on the state’s economy has taken its toll on many small Michigan cities and Eaton Rapids could have failed or suffered as many other cities have. Instead, the City government through the guidance of new and long-term leadership has survived using some very innovative strategies. The town is experiencing a very well-planned resurgence that should be recognized as an example for others to follow.
The town leaders recognized that success was contingent upon cooperation and sought out the assistance of the county, state, federal government, surrounding township, public schools and local commerce.
A GOOD BASE FROM WHICH TO START
The City has been fortunate to have a good mix of business to support the local economy. There are two large industrial businesses in town that are prospering and provide employment for various skill levels.
These businesses are locally-owned and operated and invest heavily in the high-tech elements of their business. Both businesses have the potential to promote the development of satellite businesses that will further expand the industrial and employment base of the community.
There is a good mix of commercial businesses in the City and the downtown shows signs of revitalization due to an active Chamber of Commerce that has worked closely with the City and schools to promote and attract new businesses to the area.
The City also has an LDFA that has funded a number of infrastructure projects and has worked diligently to support and attract high-tech businesses related to alternate energy sources as well as automotive needs. An elementary school that was recently closed as the district downsized has become an incubator facility providing space for education based programs and businesses. Most of the available space is being utilized by such organizations as the Chamber of Commerce, YMCA, Head Start and Community Education. There are a number of small businesses located there that will eventually grow and could relocate to the downtown.
LOCAL INVESTMENTLocal business people and residents formed an investment group a few years ago and purchased vacant and distressed properties in and around the downtown with the goal of redevelopment that would lead to the betterment of the quality of life for the local residents and visitors to the community.
The investment group also actively seeks outside investors to come to Eaton Rapids to redevelop vacant properties. An out-of-state developer recently purchased the old and nearly abandoned woolen mills with the goal of developing a multi-use site that incorporates an Inn, restaurants, living spaces and recreational facilities.
A new kayak/canoe school and rental business known as Highland River Adventures recently located in a vacant building along the river where the City and local residents are working to gain grants to develop a white water rapids park which could attract kayakers from miles away. A new restaurant called Tavern on the Grand is currently being developed on Main Street along the river where diners will have a view of people boating, fishing and enjoying the pleasures of a tranquil but active waterway. A new Dollar General store is also under construction with a planned opening date for the holiday season. Although there are several vacant buildings in the downtown, new businesses have been started and others have expanded.
The City of Eaton Rapids, also known as the “Island City” is located approximately 15 miles south of Lansing in Eaton County. The City is located where the Grand River and Spring Brook cross and the juncture forms an island, which is the City’s downtown. The City was founded in 1837 and it soon became known world wide for its two woolen mills and the presence of mineral springs that were then believed to provide therapeutic and medicinal benefits for people who drank or bathed in the water. Recognized as a booming town, the City was actually considered as a potential site for the state capitol before it was located in Lansing.