WKAR recently sat down for a conversation with Lansing’s top economic development official, Bob Trezise.
The conversation began with his update on Lansing's multi-million dollar 'Red Cedar Renaissance' project.
LEAP CEO Bob Trezise: “I think it’s in its final stages. They are providing us with necessary figures. You know, in order for us to do proper due diligence, we need to continue on and get even more from them, which they are providing.
It’s in a flood plain, which is an area that you can build in, but it’s more expensive, and so we have to build a plinth. This would basically be a lateral parking ramp where it does two functions.
One, it’s a great way to park cars. And number two, it’s a necessary way for water to flow through and not damage apartments or retail if and when that kind of flooding experience happens.
But the discussion is ‘Whose responsibility is that?’ And we’ve all decided that it’s basically a joint responsibility. I mean it is owned by the city and yet, a developer obviously, we hope, is going to make money and so we need to find out a good combination. But it is possible that someone--the city most likely--will be asked to bond to help pay for that plinth.
If it does, and everybody decides to do that---and this will be public hearings---number one, we need to have all the facts and figures together. Number two, we need all the facts and figures together to make absolutely sure that over the life of that bond the necessary revenue is generated from that site that will always pay those bond payments rather than having to be flipped, naturally, to the taxpayer. And that is our duty and responsibility at LEAP to make sure that we package that correctly.
And of course we also need to make sure the quality of the project is there. And I’m convinced that Joel Ferguson and Frank Kass are the folks and the team to put that together. I think we’re very close and I think that, probably this year, you’ll see construction begin.
Mark Bashore: There will be a new U.S. President at the end of this week. Will that impact your work?
Trezise: Well, I think possibly it might in a variety of ways. I really believe that appropriate and reasonable free trade is critical to growth. I think it needs to be done right and I just get concerned--especially with the auto industry here. So I think we really do have to watch carefully how trade agreements are dissolved or how they are implemented.
And I also know that a key to growing businesses locally and growing local jobs is being able to export to other countries. I mean, we have the Neogens and Emergent Biosolutions and of course GMs and auto supplier plants.
On the other side of it, businesses and the economic climate always look for certainty and I don’t think volatility helps. On both a professional and personal basis, I’m really worried about that.
Bashore: Lansing voters will decide the next Mayor later this year. Are you hoping your boss Virg Bernero runs again and is re-elected?
Trezise: Well LEAP is an apolitical organization. We would not get involved in any kind of campaign or election. We don’t---
Bashore: Still, you have a pretty close working relationship and you’ve enjoyed a pretty productive relationship with Mayor Bernero.
Trezise: Yeah, and I was going to explain that. LEAP has a contract with the city of Lansing and through the Lansing city charter, the CEO of the city is the mayor. And from an economic development standpoint, over the last 11 years, the city has grown incredibly. I, and LEAP—(even) before I was at LEAP--we’ve been very involved in that and I am extremely proud of it.
From an economic development standpoint, the record is very, very clear. As far as the election goes, we have to take a step back. It’s going to sort itself out, but I think the record is very, very clear, that the record of economic growth and development in the city is in fact historic under Mayor Bernero’s leadership.