Berrien County fighting to maintain metropolitan status

BUCHANAN, Mich. -- Berrien County leaders are urging the federal government to not remove the region’s metropolitan status.

While cities like Niles and Benton Harbor aren’t metropolises, they are able to fall under the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) distinction, which gives them access to data that promotes economic development and makes them eligible for certain funding – all of which could be lost if the government goes through with changing its guidelines. 

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) started MPAs in 1949 as a way to target construction of the interstate system. 

“When Eisenhower first built I-94, I-75, U.S. 31 that was the data they used, so same thing applies here, how things are funded is going to be based on this data and if they take us out it’s like we don’t count,” said Al Pscholka, Vice-President of Public Relations and Government Affairs at Kinexus Group.

Since that time, a county or region has been designated as an MSA based on if they have a collected urban population of 350,000. 

But in January, the OMB proposed changing that.

“To say you have to have an urbanized area of greater than 100,000 people and by doing that they would end up eliminating 140 MSAs across the country, about eight of them in Michigan,” said Daniel Fette, Community Development Director for the County of Berrien.

So, how exactly would this impact Berrien County residents?

“They’re utilized for things like transportation funding – finishing U.S. 31, redoing I-94 – housing statistics like numbers for urban development,” said Pscholka. “Those become jeopardized when you take an area like Niles and Benton Harbor and say you’re no longer a labor market.”

Now, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners has passed a resolution opposing the proposal before a final decision is made. 

“Any time the OMB proposes a rule change they have to post that for public comment, so we’re in a rush to get our opposition reported,” said Fette.

The public input portal is open through March 19.

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