For numerous years the city of Flint, Michigan has garnered more than its share of bad news, ranging from poverty rates clocking over 23% and the highest crime and unemployment rates in the country. With the national spotlight focusing upon the poisoning of Flint residents through lead-contaminated water, regardless of whether the cause of this crisis was greed, corruption, or simply bad management; Flint residents are in dire need of some ‘good news’ for a change.
Jim Rutkowski of Rutkowski Development has attended all the local meetings pertaining to the Flint Water Crisis for the last six months. With 25 years’ experience in business, real estate, economic and community development, Rutkowski sensed there was a real opportunity to turn things around for Flint. First, he wanted to truly understand Flint’s environment from the inside: “I wanted to listen to the people and officials of Flint explain their problems, and listen for opportunities to make change from within” he explains.
By listening to their various problems, frustrations, ideas and hopes, Rutkowski learned about numerous local non-profits, organizations, and businesses, while also getting to know local officials and government committees and boards. While gathering information, he pieced together a strategy that utilizes the opportunities that exist in Flint in order to help Flint create more jobs.
The first piece to the puzzle was to target an industry that could thrive in Flint and that Flint could support. Back when it was a major lumber and logging town, prosperity and the name of Flint were synonymous. Incorporated back in 1855, a century later in 1955 it became a world-class home to major automotive companies such as General Motors, which through their Buick & Chevrolet divisions helped grow the population to more than 200,000. This transformed Flint into a major industrial hub for American factories and manufacturing, earning it the nickname ‘Vehicle City’.
Then in the 1970’s and 80’s when the automakers started leaving for Mexico, the hollowing out began. Jobs became scarce and unemployment surged to 23 percent in 2010. Almost one in five residents left town between 2000 and 2010. Crime rates soared.
When government officials switched the Flint water supply to water drawn from the Flint River in April of 2014, supposedly to save money, it seemed as if no one cared about Flint anymore.
It was at this juncture that Jim Rutkowski, who has successfully developed hundreds of properties and businesses, saw opportunity in Flint where others only saw problems. By attending community meetings and listening to the frustrations, ideas, and hopes of residents, non-profits, organizations, businesses, and local officials, he gathered information over a six-month span and started to piece together a strategy that utilized the many opportunities that currently exist in Flint.
According to Rutkowski, Flint Job Corp will train 18-25 year-olds in commercial painting. They also have training in cement, block, carpentry, administration and more, and will be used to help renovate and build the facility. Catholic Charities has a program for training specific people for employment. Mott Community College and Kettering University are set up to do research and train interns and employees. Community Ventures supplies grants for certain workers’ clothing and transportation. The Flint Mass Transit is constantly available for worker transportation, and Metro Community Development and Michigan Economic Development Commission (MEDC) could lend the money
To Rutkowski’s mind, the only ingredient missing was the industry.
After more research and working with his connections, Jim found a perfect opportunity for Flint, in bringing a new cutting edge coating facility, Comprehensive Coating, into one of Flint’s unused buildings to provide industrial coatings such as wet paint, powder coating, high temperature, and corrosion control as well as research and tooling to the entire state with Flints central location near I-75 and I-69.
Rutkowski quickly brought together a team for setting up Comprehensive Coating to create jobs for Flint workers and provide a needed service for the manufacturing industries in Detroit and elsewhere.
Comprehensive Coating will be in operation within a few weeks. Once this entity is off the ground, Rutkowski envisions creating other upstream and downstream companies for manufacturing and developing commercial buildings for other like-minded companies.
At this juncture, Comprehensive Coating then becomes a community project as well as a testimonial to the rebirth of Flint. Not only does this provide hope and jobs for Flint residents, but it serves as a template for a system that can be duplicated elsewhere in the community.
By pulling together community resources and creating an asset map, Rutkowski was able to build a game plan that serves as an alternative to the ‘race-to-the-bottom’ development strategies used by economic development officials for decades, in which struggling cities sign over the farm to out-of-town corporations in return for modest job commitments.
This difference in approach is significant. Pulling together divergent community resources into the overall game-plan takes both patience and a historical knowledge gleaned from Rutkowski’s development and engineering experience. But investigating and building an asset map, which Flint previously had not articulated; attending community meetings, and getting to know the movers behind these numerous existing community resources, Rutkowski was able to pull this ground-breaking community venture together.
Through this orchestrated collaboration, one can readily see how development marks not the commencement of a community project, but the rebirth of Flint.
“Flint needs bigger solutions along with clean water, because water isn’t Flint’s only problem”, concludes Rutkowski. “The customer base for Comprehensive Coating will entail a broad spectrum of industries ranging from Automotive, Defense, Aerospace, Wind, Solar Power, Mining, Heavy Truck, Boating, and Manufacturing.”
Additionally, Comprehensive Coating will incorporate many different types of paint & corrosion control methods, including wet painting, powder coating, chemical resistant coating, electrostatic powder coating, epoxies, hybrids, urethanes, fusion bonded epoxies, functional coatings, and anti-microbial coatings, which protect against bacteria and mold.
For more information, visit www.comprehensivecoating.com or call or contact: James Rutkowski 989-980-8410 or Jim@primeconsultingusa.com