LANSING, Mich. — The U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Friday announced that the Department of Commerce will award $2 million to rebuild and expand Dixie Highway in Bridgeport Township.
The grant from the department’s Economic Development Administration marks the end of a lengthy effort to secure the funding.
“This quest began years ago and I am happy to see it finally become a reality,” said Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth.
One year ago, Horn was able to lock down $1 million in state dollars for the project. Securing that money was the first step in qualifying for matching federal funds that would launch the reconstruction. Horn was joined by state Rep. Vanessa Guerra, D-Saginaw; representatives from Bridgeport Township and its DDA; the Saginaw County Road Commission; Saginaw Future Inc.; the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce; and East Michigan Council of Governments to make their case for funding to state and federal officials.
“Convincing my colleagues in 2017 that this was a state priority was no small feat,” Horn said. “Many of my fellow legislators were unaware of the business and tourism impact this region provides to the state, but we were able to make them believers. Once the $1 million was obtained at the state level, we were able to take our case to the federal government, and last week’s announcement is a stunning victory for the entire Great Lakes Bay Region.”
Members of Bridgeport Township, where the stretch of Dixie Highway is located, understand all too well how this will change the landscape both commercially and economically.
“Widening the road is imperative,” said Bridgeport Township Manager Rose Licht. “Our residents win, the region wins and the state wins — as an already crowded commercial hub will have the means to expand.”
The project was able to move forward because of the plans of local businesses to expand and create jobs. Orchid Unique Orthopedic Solutions and Amigo are two companies that expect that the Dixie Highway improvements will enable their continued expansions.
“Amigo Mobility’s headquarters has been on Dixie Highway since the company was founded 50 years ago,” said Beth Thieme, CEO of Amigo Mobility. “We’ve been concerned about the number of accidents and are relieved this road will be safer for our employees, customers and the rest of the community traveling on this busy road. This will also help attract more business to this area.”
Orchid’s facility in Bridgeport was equally thrilled with the news.
“Orchid has been working for over two years with local, state and federal officials to secure these funds,” said Jason Ratcliffe, plant general manager of Orchid. “We have been in the Bridgeport community since 1997 and since that time, we have seen steady growth in our operations and of the community along Dixie Highway. These improvements will increase the safety of employees, visitors and business partners of Orchid and the surrounding businesses, while promoting future growth here in Bridgeport.”
The Saginaw County Road Commission contributed numerous hours of engineering work and planning to take the proposal to the federal level.
“We’ve fought for this as a top priority for the region for years,” said Managing Director Dennis Borchard. “We’d like to thank Senator Horn for his support, along with the Bridgeport DDA, Saginaw Future and all the businesses that are committed to economic development as part of this project. Strong partnerships locally and with our state legislators were key — those relationships and significant data showing an economic benefit made this a reality.”
Horn declared Friday’s announcement a victory for the entire region.
“I want to thank everyone who was involved in making this become a reality,” Horn said. “From the local level to my colleagues in the Legislature and our partners on the federal level, this was a tremendous team effort. Estimates expect this investment to create 54 new jobs and generate $6.5 million in private investments. It will truly transform the area.”