Major merger considered

nwmcog webBenjamin Gohs

News Editor

You may not know how they affect your life, but two of the region’s most important governing bodies are considering merging their boards.

The Northwest Michigan Council of Governments (NWMCOG) and Northwest Michigan Workforce Development boards—in an effort to increase efficiency and lower administrative costs—are looking at the potential upside of streamlining their operations by operating as a single board.
“It’s not a consolidation. It’s really two boards maintaining their autonomy but meeting together and doing business under one organization,” said Matt McCauley, Director of Regional Planning and Community Development for the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments.
According to McCauley, while his organization has not yet determined just how much money and man-hours could be saved by the move, it could be significant.
“We have two books of record, two accounting streams, two audits, all those administrative functions—even letterhead for both the council and workforce—all those types of things would be consolidated into one,” he said.
The impetus for the boards’ consideration of a merger was largely due to calls by Gov. Rick Snyder for governmental bodies to become more efficient through shared services.
“For a long time, government agencies were being asked to run more like a business so what this actually does is give more private sector representation within governance and then also increase the size of the board to expand our government representation from what it is from counties to other municipalities like townships and villages,” McCauley said. “As it stands right now, the majority of workforce board members are private sector, and the council of governments board is public sector. By merging, those two boards together would have more public input on workforce and more private input on the council of governments side of things.”
He added, “And, in addition, there would be additional government representatives from townships, villages and cities who would be voting members on the board.”
The NWMCOG and Michigan Workforce Development Board offer Michigan citizens numerous resources for both employers and workers.
“The council of governments oversees a number of different programs but the two that I think are most important to the general public are that we are the local administrator of the Michigan Works! Program … whose primary customers are local businesses and job-seekers; and the second program provides planning resources to local decision-makers, without being a decision-maker, to 198 units of government across northwest lower Michigan,” McCauley said.
He added, “We provide resources on affordable housing, transportation planning, recreation planning—think of it as a library for local units of government.”
Since 1974, NWMCOG has facilitated and managed programs in what is now a 10-county region consisting of Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Manistee, Missaukee and Wexford counties.
The programs under its purview include Northwest Michigan Works, YouthBuild, the Small Business Development Center, Procurement Technical Assistance Center and much more.
“Governor Snyder identified northwest lower Michigan in his prosperity initiative as a best practices for regional cooperation,” said McCauley. “This continues the momentum of that and we look forward to serving this region better and providing a model for other regions in the state to go down similar paths.”
Northern Michigan has had many years of practice developing shared services out of necessity, McCauley said, adding that rural areas have always been expected to do more with less.
“Historically we didn’t have the same access to dollars and resources as more populated areas so, in order to get the quality of life and infrastructure that was desired by the people within the region, local communities and decision-makers and organizations made concerted efforts to collaborate and coordinate while other parts of the country may have had the checkbook to do as they wish by themselves,” McCauley said.
The Northwest Michigan Workforce Development Board is one of 25 such boards in the state, and is comprised of the following members: Bear Lake Hardware/Lumber, Master Craft Extrusion Tools, MI Rehab Services, Barnard Engineering, Saber Tool Company, MEDC, West Shore Comm College, Workforce Development Agency, State of Michigan, Mitchell Graphics, Boyne Resorts, Jeannot Development Company, Kal Excavating Company, Northern Michigan Hospital, Grandvue Medical Care Facility, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Kalkaska DHS, Piranha Hose Products, Boride Engineered Abrasives, Manistee ISD School Board, K-12 Representative, Hague Equipment Company of Michigan, Grand Traverse Industries, Munson Medical Center, Pugsley Correctional Facility, Elk Lake Tool Company, NMC/Tool North, UA Local 85, Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency, Central Labor Council, and Vacation Trailer Park and Vacation Trailer Sales.
“I think it’s a good thing,” said NWMCOG Board Member and Charlevoix County Commissioner Chris Christensen. “It gives more power to private the sector than it did in the past.”
He added, “The governor has asked people to comply voluntarily in streamlining government. Once again, we’re leading the effort of consolidation that sets a standard for the rest of the state. I’m honored to be a part of it.”
NWMCOG is located at 600 East Front St., Suite 104, in Traverse City. You can get more information by going to their website at nwm.org or calling (800) 692-7774.
The Northwest Michigan Works! Center is located at 1209 South Garfield in Traverse City.
The boards were expected to discuss the merger at the Monday June 9 meeting. Results were not available by press time.