Municipally Speaking features brief interviews with the mayors, city managers and economic development officials of Genesee County’s municipalities on matters of governing and economic and community development. For the September-October issue, AND spoke with Swartz Creek City Manager Adam Zettel, AICP.
For those that are not familiar with Swartz Creek, most of us are certainly aware of the Sports Creek Raceway. What does the future hold for that site?
Well, ownership transferred a couple years ago. The new group aspires to bring thorough breed horse racing to a renovated site. However, the enabling state statutes that are needed for a successful business model did not grow to fruition. As it stands today, the owner is likely to put that aim on the backburner as they consider options for a modern industrial park. For our part, this makes a lot of sense in terms of matching the community’s vision and existing infrastructure. While no plans have been formally produced, we have a great relationship with the owner and find that group to be communicative, accommodating to local needs, and capable of extraordinary vision. We see good things happening in the near future.
You are a city manager. How is that different than a mayor?
I get this all the time. Most cities in Michigan are chartered as Council-Manager forms of government. In business terms, this would make me the CAO of the city, answering to the board of directors (council). I manage the day-to-day operations of the city. This includes the routine supervision of department heads as they execute the functions of their respective service areas. It also includes collaborating with the city council and other city commissions to determine and implement broader policies and initiatives. This is the key balancing act of any city manager, which is to lead the community by adding to the vision and recommending action, as well as to follow the directives of the elective officials.
In your role, how can you assist with a project like the raceway?
Under our current master plan, a project like this is at the core of my purpose in the community. In fact, I often tell people that my purpose as the city manager in Swartz Creek is to sell quality of life in west Genesee County. Our team does so by providing the highest level of core services, clearly illustrating the community’s position on development (which is very positive), and by setting the development table with incentives and a very clean & easy process. From a practical standpoint, the city maintains a status as a certified Redevelopment Ready Community. This means that we have well-articulated development processes, which have been altered so as to be quick, simple, and predictable. We also offer a number of incentives that include tax abatements, development grants, and waivers of utility connection fees.
Process and incentives aside, why Swartz Creek?
I think the Swartz Creek area is the most undervalued community in the region, but I don’t think this will be the case for long. It’s funny how many times I run into city contractors or affiliates that begin to visit the city from elsewhere on business and start looking for homes in the area after a couple months. Swartz Creek has invested tremendously in our community assets. The school is finishing a massive, district-wide renovation. We have arguably the most robust and best-funded street, water main, and sewer asset management program in the region. We are also due to expand our local and regional trail network with $1.5 million in new investment, coming in 2022. Our downtown is undergoing massive new private and public investment, with business, housing, and public space additions. In short, the community is hitting on all cylinders. I love it here, and I expect the community to be extraordinarily vibrant in the years to come.