October’s unemployment rate in St. Joseph County increased half a percent from a month earlier.
The monthly labor-market analysis by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget showed St. Joseph County’s 7.8 percent October unemployment rate was up from September’s 7.3 percent figure.
The agency said certain summer recreational businesses, including the golf industry, and the loss of seasonal leisure and hospitality jobs contributed to an increased unemployment rate throughout the region in October.
St. Joseph County remained below the state unemployment average, which was 8.3 percent in October.
At 5.6 percent, Barry County had the lowest unemployment rate in October in the region, while Hillsdale County had the highest, at 9.4 percent.
Ann Bird has been appointed to head the Sturgis Public Schools Board of Education.
Bird will serve as board president, filling the void left by Tom Robertson. Robertson resigned last month after accepting a job as juvenile court director, a position Robertson said could create a conflict of interest.
With Bird sworn in as president, Ray Sterling was appointed vice president, Frank Kalasky secretary and Kerri Millett treasurer.
On a related note, Paul Gorsuch was sworn in Monday as a new board member.
Sturgis Public Schools officials this week decided to keep its transportation services in-house rather than contract bus-driving services.
During Monday’s board of education meeting, members acted on a recommendation of a committee to retain its own staff and employees. The measure was a relief to several bus drivers who attended the meeting, according to Superintendent Tom Langdon.
Committee members studied a bid from MV Transportation, whose figures were comparable to the $350,000 annual cost the district spends for its own bus-driving staff.
Board members agreed the district is well served by the current roster of drivers. The bid for services was sought at the request of the state.
Nearly 1,500 jobs and $53.8 million in new, private investment were announced in St. Joseph County in 2013.
The figures were included in the Southwest Michigan First 2013 annual report presented by Ken Jones last week before the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners. The 12-month period marks the first full calendar year the St. Joseph County Economic Development Corporation has operated under the umbrella of Southwest Michigan First.
He noted that 15 of 16 company announcements in 2013 were expansions.
Jones recapped each of the 16 company announcements, led by Burr Oak Tool’s 120,000-square-foot expansion in Sturgis. He also noted Merehow Industries, which announced 46 new manufacturing jobs in White Pigeon. The company decided to relocate from Bristol, Ind.
Looking ahead, Jones said 16 proposals are moving forward, though not all will develop into bona fide projects. Nonetheless, the 16 proposals would equate to more than 800 jobs and $122 million in investment.
Jones reminded the board of money the EDC has set aside to hire a consultant to help certify shovel-ready sites in St. Joseph County, which would allow a company to come in and go right to work on a new facility, he said.
The consultant is looking at a 40-acre site in Three Rivers.
Nearly 200 people took part in Friday’s Christmas in Colon holiday gathering in downtown Colon.
Despite cold weather, a crowd gathered along State Street well ahead of the annual parade. The procession started at Colon Elementary and concluded at Colon Community Park, where hot chocolate, cookies and a visit with Santa were available.
Sponsored by the Colon Area Chamber of Commerce, the event also featured extended hours at downtown Colon businesses, where finger foods and treats were offered.
Village president Tom Tenney declared the 2013 event a success based on the number of people who participated and spent the evening in its downtown district.
Three Rivers Community Schools Superintendent Roger Rathburn has announced he plans to run for state representative next year.
The 51-year-old Rathburn, who is retiring in June following a 13-year tenure as superintendent in Three Rivers, will seek the 59th District State House seat currently held by Matt Lori. Lori, who will begin his sixth and final year as state rep in January, is term-limited and unable to run again.
Rathburn said he planned to retire to seek other opportunities, preferably in the arena of education. But after being approached by a number of county residents, Rathburn said his interest in the state representative’s position grew in its appeal.
To date, John Bippus is the only other candidate to declare his plans to run for the seat.
The 59th District covers St. Joseph County and all but a small pocket of Cass County.