SMART Park Update November 2023
by Bob Hance on Wednesday, November 1, 2023
If you’ve driven by our office on Decatur Road in Cassopolis recently, you’ve undoubtedly seen all the dirt being moved and road work progressing. That’s our field of dreams transforming into MEC’s Southwest Michigan Advanced Research & Technology “SMART” Park.
As I write this, our first tenant, Norsk Hydro, is preparing to open their doors for business. Their $150 million investment and 70+ local jobs are a huge boon for Cass. Soon the plant will be in full production, trains will be utilizing the rail, and most importantly, the company will be contributing millions of dollars to the local tax base in Cass, giving the County, the Village of Cassopolis, and Penn Township even more opportunities for growth and sustainability.
For the remainder of the park, utilities are placed, and construction continues on the boulevard entrance off of M-60. While that entrance will remain closed through the winter, we are setting the stage for a beautiful streetscape that will serve as the future home for retail establishments, yet to be determined. Signage, landscaping, a non-motorized trail and other community amenities will welcome visitors and employees for years to come.
Additionally, the SMART Park is one of only a handful of nationwide sites to earn designation as a CN Rail Ready Site. This is huge because these sites are rigorously evaluated by a third party with strict criteria around zoning, utilities, telecommunications, highways, and environmental assessments. All these evaluations ensure businesses will have the logistics they need to start production sooner and easier.
While Hydro settles in, we aggressively seek more businesses to set up shop in the SMART Park. I have heard the rumblings and concerns of what that means for Cass. Change can be unsettling and scary. However, our development covenants are designed to protect the rural character that we have grown to love while enabling businesses to succeed and thrive. For instance, lighting will be dark sky compliant. Perhaps more impactful, we have a patient mentality that allows us to attract investment that aligns with our values and covenants. Ultimately, we are building the SMART Park for one reason: to create a vibrant, relevant, and sustainable community that will provide economic stability and opportunity for generations to come.
This is the last blog post of the year, and I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving and a Christmas filled with joy and laughter. 2024 looks to be another banner year for MEC, and I’m excited to share what we have in store for the next 12 months and beyond.