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Village taking steps to attract new businesses

October 26, 2011 - A metamorphosis has taken place in the Village of Lake Orion, with its new streetscape, council and, now, a new outlook on business development.

Spearheaded by Council President Ken Van Portfliet and Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Suzanne Perreault, the new process involves presenting incentives and streamlined application work to attract more business opportunities to the downtown area.

There is also another attractive factor for potential restaurant owners.

"One of our biggest incentives to draw business right now is our ability to offer a cheap liquor license," Perreault said. "There's a program through the state where, in order to get additional liquor licenses, we have to show some kind of investment in the community."

She said for every $200,000 spent over a period of time renovating or improving one's community, the state provides a $20,000 license. The typical license costs roughly $80,000. From January to June, there was more than $650,000 worth of private investment in Lake Orion, so there are at least a few of these licenses available, Perreault said.

Some of qualifying improvements include the renovation of Leo's Coney Island, the soon-to-be opening of the new Broadway Grill and 51North Brewing Company (in the current DDA building). In addition, there are the recent additions of Salai Tai, Benito's Pizza, Pro-Martial Arts, the relocation of Orion Music Studio and the large Streetscape project, itself.

This is just part of qualifying process for what Oakland County is calling a "Development-Ready Certified Community." The DDA executive director said the program should be "rolled out" by the end of the year. It uses a series of checklist items, specific to each community, to determine how attractive a community may be to new business.

One of the attractive features is a streamlined application processes.

"Being business development-ready is something we're working on, and involves having pre-applications for interested parties," Van Portfliet said. "It also means trying to be efficient when planning and permitting those parties."

The council president further explained the process also includes a redesign of the village website for clarity, having open entertainment venues, and reworking ordinances to make them more understandable.

"Of the 20 items on the county's checklist, we're already compliant with around eight or 10 of them," he said. "Not everything on this list will be appropriate, but we're working on a lot of potential items."

Perreault agreed and added another aspect of making the community attractive - educating business owners.

"One of the biggest things is that we want to try to educate people who want to open business here," said Perreault. "Do they have a plan, do they know the ins-and-outs of their cash-flow, do they know how to effectively market their business - these are the kind of things we would like to help them determine before jumping into a business venture."

"It's not dependent on the DDA or the Village, but the best thing we can do is educate people before and while they're opening a business."

Visit lakeorion.org for more info.

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