GAYLORD — Wednesday was a celebration for the business development that is evident throughout Otsego County.

A room of 200-plus gathered at Otsego Club, where the Otsego County Economic Alliance's annual partner celebration heralded another year of tremendous growth, with a handful of businesses being singled out with awards.

Award winners included: Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott, Significant Capital Investment; Otsego Memorial Hospital, Largest Job Creator; City of Gaylord Streetscape Project, Downtown Gaylord Economic Driver; The Iron Pig Smokehouse, New Small Business Success; Albie's Foods Inc., Commitment to Community Prosperity; and TBO Development, Otsego County Economic Driver.

 

Both of the the breakfast event's keynote speakers — Ken Bradstreet, former state representative and current community and government affairs consultant for Wolverine Power Cooperative, and L. Brooks Patterson, longtime Oakland County executive — spoke highly about what is going on in the Gaylord area.

"Some of you might not appreciate what you've got here, but what you've got here is good leadership and people within the business community," Bradstreet, who spent part of his childhood in Gaylord and lived here as an adult. "Don't ever lose track of that."

Patterson, who steered Oakland County through the lean times of losing 65,000 automotive jobs during the recession in the late 2000s through fiscal responsibility, innovation and diversity in the business sector, also has noticed Gaylord's growth. He is a former member of the Otsego Ski Club.

"It's nice to see the town, its changes and how it continues to grow," Patterson said. "You've been blessed with good leadership."

Ken Borton, chairman of the Otsego County Board of Commissioners, won a chance in a silent auction to meet Patterson, and the meeting spurred an unlikely relationship between the two Michigan counties. Local officials met with Oakland County officials last year to learn more about how they've overcome challenges, and Borton helped arrange Patterson to be part of Wednesday's event.

 

The numbers bear out that Otsego County has done a great job overcoming challenges of its own.

Lisa McComb, executive director of the Otsego County Economic Alliance, said 2017 brought $15 million in private investment, $2 million in public investment, 60 new jobs, hundreds of skilled trade jobs for new construction and 83 new hotel rooms.

Downtown alone has seen 15 new businesses in the past two years, and the area in 2017 saw over $8 million in commercial/industrial developments and expansions, bringing in 43 new jobs.

McComb said there is plenty to look forward to in 2018, including the OMH expansion, the new trailhead in Vanderbilt and trail extension between southern Otsego County and Gaylord, an expansion at H&H Tube in Vanderbilt and the opening of O'Reilly Auto Parts, Holiday Inn Express and Iron Belle Grille.

The alliance is focusing on housing development in the area because of the influx of jobs, as well as developing businesses through a "Shark Tank" style "Pitch Night" in May. Also, the area looks to continue to utilize its relationship with SCORE, a group that connects those looking to start or improve a business with mentors who previously served as business leaders and the Small Business Development Center, another tool that helps upstart businesses.