TC leaders help create Romania’s first industrial park

TRAVERSE CITY – The Traverse Bay Economic Development Corporation (TBEDC), in cooperation with the TC Area Chamber of Commerce, Grand Traverse County and the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, is assisting in the development of Romania’s first industrial park.

This past May, a delegation from Romania visited Traverse City with the sole purpose of learning more about industrial park development.

Charles Blankenship, president of the TBEDC, says the relationship was formed three years ago when he and others participated in a county-to-county exchange led by Ross Childs, County Coordinator.

At that time, Blankenship was asked to act as consultant in the creation of an economic development strategy and the Sibiu Development Agency (Romania).

After the county-to-county exchange ended, the TBEDC, along with the newly-formed Sibiu Development Agency, applied for a grant for the development of an industrial park. (A new law had recently been passed in Romania allowing for industrial parks.)

A grant was awarded through World Learning and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development for the sole purpose of assisting the Sibiu Development Agency in creating its first industrial park.

Visiting Romania last February, Blankenship helped select a site for the park in the Village of Sur Mica. The site includes 200 acres of flat land with accessible water, sewer and railway services.

“It’s been a personally rewarding experience for all of us involved to participate in Romania’s economic revolution,” Blankenship said.

Having never seen an industrial park, the Romanian project leaders were invited to Traverse City for training on how to develop one. The Director of the Sibiu Development Agency, the Mayor of the Village of Sur Mica, the Mayor of the City of Sibiu and the President of the County of Sibiu toured several industrial parks throughout the Traverse City area that were in various stages of development.

During the week-long visit, the delegation learned about environmental assessment, cost analysis, cash flow, marketing and design of industrial parks. They also became familiar with Grand Traverse County’s permit and inspection process, as well as the region’s export assistance program.

Hal Van Sumeren, president of the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce, and Jim Haslinger, manager of the Export Assistance Office, will accompany Blankenship on a trip to Romania in September to help finalize the business plan for the park.

The next step will then be to apply to the Romania government for approval. Van Sumeren will work with the Chamber in Romania on the permit process.

In November, Blankenship will again return to Romania along with Chuck Lambardo, owner of CML Associates, and a member of the TBEDC board, to help develop a marketing plan for the industrial park. BN