CENTREVILLE — In June of 1991, the Missaukee County community of McBain made headlines when it became the first Michigan municipality to formally privatize its economic development efforts. The idea may be catching on, as evidenced by recent actions in St. Joseph County in southwestern Michigan.

As reported in the Sturgis Journal in late May, St. Joseph County’s economic development consortium is moving toward incorporating as a private organization, thereby making county government "an investor, rather than the leader" in economic development. Proponents argued that privatization would allow development officials to meet in closed session, create tax exempt status, depoliticize the organization, reduce the risk exposure to county government, and allow donors to deduct contributions on their taxes.

Currently, the county’s economic development consortium involves 18 of the county’s 25 governmental units. It originated about two years ago, with a Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce plan for promoting development in the western half of the county.