Typically when economic developers search for the ideal site, they’re working on behalf of clients interested in a wide array of amenities from location to visibility and from cost of utilities to the availability of a skilled workforce. Then, too, comes the day when those same economic developers need to find that perfect space for themselves. Today, there’s word of an amazing partnership that seals the deal for both parties — client and economic developer — as Cornerstone Alliance pulls the trigger on a deal that will result in the investment of more than $1-million dollars in downtown Benton Harbor this year.
In working with Mosaic CCDA to find the ideal new site for them, Cornerstone has arranged to give up their own quarters in the historic old Benton Harbor State Bank Building and re-establish those offices a block away with high visibility along Main Street and Business Loop I-94. They will move to the former Tabor Hill Tasting Room at 80 W. Main Street, and the space that was home to Murfee’s Boutique, which has gone out of business.
Cornerstone, as Berrien County’s lead economic development agency, and the offices of Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce will depart their home of nearly 20-years to make way for Mosaic, which is Berrien County’s high impact job training organization which has to relocate after their property and surrounding acreage were acquired by Whirlpool Corporation.
Both Cornerstone and Mosaic will be moving into new locations and redeveloping downtown properties in order to better serve their clients. The Boards of Directors for both organizations unanimously approved the moves at their respective March meetings.
Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad calls it a win-win for everyone saying, “The residents of the City of Benton Harbor all have the opportunity to benefit from a move of this magnitude.” He adds, “Cornerstone Alliance and Mosaic provide resources that allow our residents to have access to better jobs, to more skills that employers look for and to start a business of their own. The fact that both organizations are choosing to grow and invest downtown proves that Benton Harbor continues to move in the right direction.”
For three decades, Cornerstone Alliance has driven economic development efforts from its presence in Benton Harbor. In the past five years alone, Cornerstone Alliance has assisted in the creation of more than $80 million in new investment and more than 450 jobs by working with companies such as Kay Manufacturing, Colson USA, Pero Family Farms, Vickers Engineering, Special-Lite, LECO Corporation and JR Automation.
Cornerstone Alliance President Rob Cleveland says, “We are grateful to have an organization like Mosaic in Berrien County. They provide services and resources to many area residents and Cornerstone Alliance is proud to be able to assist them in expanding their operations.” Cleveland calls economic development “never-ending,” and says “These moves are a great example of that process.” He says, “We have companies creating new jobs, investing throughout Berrien County and Cornerstone is focused on helping those companies, while actively participating in place-making.”
Premium office and conference facilities at the new anchor location on Main Street will be available for Economic Development, Women’s Business Center and Small Business Services, the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce, SCORE and the Renaissance Development Fund. Cleveland says, “Our new office will continue the great work that was started years ago by private individuals who have made Main Street and the Arts District destinations of diversity.”
Cornerstone Alliance’s new offices at 80 W. Main Street, in the heart of Benton Harbor’s Arts District and Main Street corridors, is another example of capital investment for mixed-use, office, commercial and residential development from private investors and area non-profit organizations.
John Janick is Chairman of the Cornerstone Alliance Board. He says, “The primary focus of Cornerstone Alliance is to promote investment and job creation in Berrien County.” He adds, “We invested in and redeveloped the building at 38 W. Wall Street and it has been our home for 20 years. We’re thrilled that Mosaic will be able to renovate the building to better serve their clients, which allows Cornerstone Alliance to redevelop more property and improve another block of Benton Harbor Main Street.”
For the team at Mosaic, their “Mosaic on the Move” Capital Campaign began last October as they pursued a permanent location for their operations. The Campaign’s goal to raise $850,000 has already achieved the $550,000 level, preparatory to relocation of the Mosaic Retail Store, Jobs for Life Program (JFL) and operational headquarters to a building of its own. Initial work with the City of Benton Harbor and its Growth Center at 200 Paw Paw provided great possibilities that unfortunately did not fit the timeline of Mosaic’s move, as delays due to federal reviews slowed progress. While Mosaic celebrates 38 Wall St. as a better path for their current needs, the partnership with the City remains a top priority for the Mosaic team. They are publicly thanking the Mayor and City Manager for all of the hard work put forth to help Mosaic and the community.
Justin Beene is Vice President of Mosaic CCDA. He says, “At Mosaic, we are absolutely thrilled to be engaged in such a strategic and timely partnership.” He notes, “In fact, Benton Harbor, like cities all over the world, is in desperate need of cross-sectoral and entrepreneurial ventures that are able to comprehensively address local needs, while building on existing assets. This partnership represents non-profit, for-profit and government coming together to not only develop and beautify our downtown corridor, but also to build up our beloved people of Benton Harbor through job training and job creation. We hope that this becomes a tipping point for many future developments that do the same and keep Benton Harbor moving forward.”
While the timing wasn’t right for the Growth Center on Paw Paw, Cleveland says, “We see many outstanding opportunities for that facility at 200 Paw Paw. Given the importance of Paw Paw Avenue and the Morton Hill district to the fabric of the community, we will continue to work closely with the city to promote the building in order to find just the right user that will enhance the economic growth of the entire city, benefiting all residents.”
Brian Bennett, as President of Mosaic, is excited, too, saying, “This is an awesome example of what happens when organizations work together for the common good. We believe this move will help us accelerate our vision to help 1,000 people take steps to greatness and sustainability in life by 2023.”
As Executive Director of Mosaic, Ric Pawloski says, “The Mosaic staff and I are thrilled that we are able to further reinforce our commitment to the Benton Harbor community and the surrounding region. Operating from a new, larger and extremely functional space in the heart of town, we will be able to better serve the people who come to us for assistance in achieving their ‘steps to greatness.'”
At Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce, Board Chair Tony Ventimiglia says, “We are pleased that Mosaic has a new home in a prime location in Benton Harbor,” and “We will do everything we can to support the organization to continue their success.”
Greg Vaughn, who serves at Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Business Development at Cornerstone Alliance says the moves, “Show the evolution of the long-term commitment to development in Benton Harbor,” adding, “We have maximized the programs, tools and resources available to us to create an environment that is attractive to developers; not only in Benton Harbor, but throughout Berrien County.” Vaugh concludes, “We are excited about the prospect of leading more development on Main Street and bringing better services to more residents.”
Neither organization shared a timeline for the move, however, StorSmart Moving Company trucks were already removing store fixtures from the former Murfee’s Boutique on Wednesday afternoon, preparatory to the impending arrival of the Cornerstone team. Mosaic faces a summer time deadline to be out of their existing space across from Kinexus downtown. Stay tuned.