Economic development manager says goodbye to Plainwell
As of July 14, Plainwell’s economic development manager, Emilie Schada, has moved on.
“I’m proud of helping the city getting on the right track with the mill redevelopment, using my skills to write the grants that resulted in buildings coming down and preparing the site for redevelopment,” Schada said. “I think I helped the city get in a good position for future success; I’m proud of that.”
She started work for the city in November 2006, taking over for Brad Deneau in the position, but she was already involved in Plainwell as she and her husband Mark had bought a house in June 2006.
“I was working at the City of Kalamazoo doing community development,” Schada said. “My husband saw the posting and I remember thinking ‘I don’t know if I’m experienced enough to do that.’ I was 24.
“My husband kept telling me, just apply. We were living here at the time and I did apply and the rest is history. I’m really glad I listened to my husband on that one.”
She was able to return the favor this year, however, by finding a job that would suit him perfectly in Gladstone, near Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula.
“It’s just funny he found this position and I found the one for him,” Schada said. “He says I start chain reactions in our lives.”
She said it appeared Gladstone was relatively similar to Plainwell, which she will always remember fondly.
“That was my first jaunt as a homeowner,” Schada said. “I had two babies and just a lot of wonderful things happened here in Plainwell. Significant milestones in my life happened here and I’ll always look back on that in a meaningful way.
“A lot of rites of passage.”
At work, she said she was proud of working with city manager Erik Wilson and the city council to push the former Plainwell Paper mill toward redevelopment.
Another point of pride while she was in Plainwell was helping obtain state facade grants for several downtown building owners, which has transformed the look of Plainwell’s downtown and returned some of the buildings to their former glory.
“I hope that brings some joy to people and I certainly think the community and the downtown are beautiful,” Schada said. “That takes the whole community, with the building owners, the business owners and the homeowners all taking pride in it.
“It’s a gorgeous, beautiful community and I think it has a lot going for it.”
She gave Wilson, particularly, credit for being a mentor and said it was easy coming to work.
“The city and the council and the boards are without a doubt like a family away from home,” Schada said. “Whoever and whenever someone replaces me, they’ll be welcomed.”
Schada said she’d still be involved in the city one way—as a landlord as the family plans to rent out its Plainwell home.
The city held a reception for her Friday, July 11, to say goodbye at Plainwell’s new city hall in the former mill.
At the reception, she received a brick from the paper mill with a plaque dedicated to her and showed off things she’d done with the community.