It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It was a long process.
That was what members and guests at a meeting of the White Pigeon, Mich., Rotary Club heard Wednesday about the arrival of Forest River Inc. to the village.
Cathy Knapp, associate vice president of Southwest Michigan First, was among speakers to summarize the Forest River project Wednesday at the Rotary meeting. She was joined by St. Joseph County grant writer Lindsay Oswald and White Pigeon village president Dan Czajkowski.
According to Knapp, although an announcement came in January that Forest River, an Elkhart, Ind.-based recreational vehicle company, would come to White Pigeon, talks with the company actually began in February 2014.
Forest River, which employs 9,000 workers, including 6,000 in Elkhart County alone, had never truly looked at Michigan to any extent, Knapp said. But when Michigan became a Right-to-Work state, that changed, she said.
Affordable land and close proximity to I-80/90 also were factors. Forest River purchased 46 acres of land along the north side of U.S. 12, east of the Grand Elk Railroad tracks. Knapp estimates that the land cost about $1 million less than it would have been in Indiana’s Elkhart County.
The grant application process for the project alone took about four months, Knapp said. About $1.6 million in community block grants for on-the-job training are being awarded for the project. Grants also have been awarded for a road into the site and a widening of U.S. 12 at the site, Knapp said. A 50% property tax abatement over 12 years is also being offered.
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