3 Reasons I Co-Founded Infuse | Wayne Hofmann
Over the past year and a half, I’ve worked with other community leaders to establish Infuse Great Lakes Bay, an organization committed to connect capital to community revitalization projects in our region. Having worked in construction, community development, and project finance throughout my career, I’ve long had a vision for a true collaborative effort across our region to make our urban spaces more attractive to investors, developers, and talent, both internally and externally.
Thanks to many like-minded people from throughout our region, Infuse Great Lakes Bay will contribute to making that vision reality.
My path to realizing why Infuse is needed evolved over time. The three reasons below are why I’ve put in the time, money, and energy over the past year and a half to arrive at today.
#1 I Love the Great Lakes Bay Region
…and have loved it even before it had the name. I grew up north of Bay City, but I got to know the region early in life, thanks to my grandfather’s love of day trips.
Some of my most vivid memories as a very young child are eating frog legs at the Schuch Hotel in Old Town Saginaw, discovering my inner nerd at the Midland Center for the Arts, rifling through knick-knacks at Czuba’s Store, and buying candy at Rau’s Country Store in Frankenmuth. I got my first great look at the region when Grandpa Wayne took me to look over the side of the Zilwaukee Bridge the day it opened.
I remember these and many other PLACES vividly. Unfortunately, some of them no longer exist.
If there is anything I’d like to leave in the way of a legacy, it would be to save existing PLACES and build new ones in our Region.
#2 Capital Flight
Brain Drain. It’s a problem we’re very familiar with in Michigan, especially from our experience in the 2000s. “Last one out of Michigan, turn out the lights.” Remember that?
Fortunately, things are looking brighter.
That said, what keeps me up at night is something similar, but different—Capital Flight. Income is important, but wealth is what drives reinvestment in communities.
Make no mistake, our region has wealth. Our region is extremely fortunate to have a strong base of corporate leaders, philanthropic organizations, and community benefactors that INVEST.
However, when I’m lying awake at night, my mind envisions a conveyor belt. On the conveyor is the wealth within our region leaving as previous generations pass, heading to those who have left the region to make their lives elsewhere. It’s a crude image, I know.
But, what if we created an environment where it pays to invest in the redevelopment of our region? If we align talents, networks and resources to get the best return-on-investment for such projects? If we helped corporations and individuals to utilize tools like Historic Tax Credits, New Markets Tax Credits, and Opportunity Zone funds to keep our wealth here?
What we would do is build value here. What we would do is INVEST in projects that raise all boats—property values, municipal revenues, investor returns, and the availability of talent.
#3 The SVRC Marketplace
June 22, 2018 was a great day for Saginaw and the Great Lakes Bay Region. I had the privilege to watch Dean Emerson and other leaders from SVRC Industries cut the ribbon on the SVRC Marketplace at the former Saginaw News Building.
If you’ve visited, you know what a transformative project it has been.
Having been involved in the project from nearly the beginning, I saw first-hand the challenges associated with such an ambitious project. The complexities and risk of pulling off such a redevelopment are significant and our region owes a debt of gratitude to SVRC Industries for making the investment.
I hope that Infuse Great Lakes Bay can make similar developments possible by helping our region INVEST in itself, creating great PLACES like SVRC Marketplace, big and small.
As I walked to the parking lot the day of the ribbon cutting, a mom was walking to her car with her two kids. The oldest boy, about 8, yelled, “MOM, I love what they did with this place!”
Mom got a big smile and says, “Me too baby, me too.”
I hope Infuse Great Lakes Bay helps create memories like the ones from my childhood, for my family and yours.