Source: Sherman Publications

Gibb: We’re starting to live by a new philosophy

by Laura Colvin

February 10, 2010

The future looks bright for Orion, but only if it plays its collective cards right.

That was the word from Orion Township Supervisor Matthew Gibb last week as he addressed a crowd gathered to hear him speak about the state of the township at King’s Court in Canterbury Castle.

Gibb summarized 2009 events, noting the effects of Chrysler and GM bankruptcies on the community, as well as a number of smaller companies who went belly-up last year.

Property values continued to fall, and while foreclosures were down from 2008, Orion still saw 210 homes lost last year.

It was a snowball effect that rolled right into township revenues, originally budgeted at $6.3 million.

“We ended up with $5 million actually coming in,” Gibb said. “Assessments are down—mine’s down—and while that’s nice for residents, it’s difficult for providing services in the township.”

All six of Gibbs fellow board members also attended the meeting, including Clerk Penny Shults and Treasurer Alice Young. Also on hand were Congressman Gary Peters, State Rep. Jim Marleau, Orion substation commander Lt. Bruce Naile, and a host of other community members, business people and township employees.

So what about the future? Gibb told

attendees about his ultimate goal—making sure Orion is attractive to young entrepreneurs—and numerous projects done in preparation: new ordinances for electric car charging stations and windmills—and the pursuit of grant money to fund such undertakings.

“We also have pre-application meetings for developers, expedited PUD (planned unit development) plans, and we’ve created broad, preplanned industrial development districts so you don’t have to guess if we want you to feel welcome in our community,” Gibb said, noting successful businesses could only make Orion stronger.

His message to those businesses?

“Let us be your resource to success.”

In recent months, the township board has worked to rewrite a number of ordinances it believes no longer make sense—or never did.

“We finally have ordinance that says if you’re a restaurant or coffee shop and one of your patrons wants to sit outside and read a newspaper in a coffee shop, we’ll let you,” he said.

The township is also working on plans to make the Parks and Recreation Department self-sustaining. Upcoming initiatives include the Park Patron, Park Pal, Adopt a Park, and Banner Advertising programs.

Thousands of young people, and adults, use the parks every year for both organized sports and leisure activities, he said.

Gibb also talked about the public/private partnerships he credits with accomplishing the moving of Howarth School, 3.6 miles of new trail, a subdivision paving project and a groundbreaking on the new amphitheatre.

“The government can’t do anything on their own anymore and if they think they can they will be failed government,” he said. “We proved it in 2009.”

In addition to public/private partnerships, Gibb also talked about his ideas for a micro enterprise fund, innovation districts—as opposed to industrial development districts—and a business incubator.

“We got very creative,” he said. “We’re starting to live by a new philosophy. People say live outside the box—I’m starting to believe there is no box at all. Throw it away.”

Watch the Review for follow-up stories, including Gibb’s initiative for a “Why I Love Orion” video contest in partnership with ONTV.