About Gratiot County
Gratiot County boasts small town charm throughout the bounds of its rural atmosphere and is a place where folks have likely come to know their neighbors. At a population of 42,476 (according to the 2010 US Census), Gratiot County maintains a small but stable community.
Gratiot County encompasses the geographical center of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and is blessed with a heritage of abundant natural resources. Settled in the mid-1800s, Gratiot County was named for Army Captain Charles Gratiot, and the county seat in Ithaca was established in 1856.
As when the first settlers arrived, agriculture remains a key component of Gratiot’s economy. In fact, almost 80% of land in Gratiot County is in farms. The rich, fertile soils of Gratiot County produce a bounty of corn and wheat, sugar beets, dry beans and soybeans and forages that is matched by a diverse livestock component of beef cattle, dairy, swine and poultry farms.
Gratiot County is home to very progressive commercial agriculture operations that use the latest technology and best production practices to take the lead on being environmentally sound and community minded. In addition to strong commercial agriculture, Gratiot County is also home to several certified organic operations. Gratiot County also has several agribusinesses that support the agricultural community and Gratiot economy.
A new type of farm is also taking advantage of Gratiot’s bountiful landscape - wind farms. Gratiot County was presented with the possibility of wind development due to its flat, open areas and collaborative nature. Leaders in the county made the two wind farms possible by creating Michigan’s first Countywide Model Wind Energy Ordinance. The county is now home to two wind farms: Beebe Community Wind Farm, LLC (55 turbines) and Gratiot County Wind, LLC (133 turbines). Gratiot County Wind, LLC is the state’s largest wind farm!
Wind development has provided numerous benefits including a $330 million increase to Gratiot’s tax base and in additional $10.37 million in tax revenue since 2012, land payments to 350 families, 21 permanent full-time maintenance jobs, and preservation of the county’s valuable agricultural land. Perhaps the most significant benefit, though, is Gratiot County’s renewed drive toward the future with new opportunities. The wind farms have increased awareness of Gratiot in the areas of increased manufacturing possibilities and wind tourism. As a result, Gratiot County has been appropriately identified as a forward-looking community that continuously positions itself for a successful future.
Gratiot County is also known for its strong and diverse manufacturing base, which contributes to its steady economy. Gratiot manufactured products include pleasure boats, molded plastic parts, aircraft engine parts, auto parts and many fabricated and machined products.
Additionally, Gratiot boasts five Michigan Certified Business Parks, and based on population, it is the smallest county with the most Certified Parks. Currently, 2,000 full-time equivalent jobs exist in the five industrial parks; this equates to over 10% of the employed workforce in Gratiot County. Therefore, manufacturing is a critical component of Gratiot County’s success.
Throughout the county, there are various outdoor recreational opportunities provided by the Pine and Maple rivers, three state game areas, bicycle rail trails, a canoe trail and multiple county and private parks offering camping, swimming and hiking excursions. The cities and villages in Gratiot County all offer attractive downtown areas with a variety of dining options and unique shopping opportunities.
Many festivals and events are held year-round in the downtown areas. Additionally, Alma College’s recreational and cultural programs are widely enjoyed by the community.
Gratiot’s diverse and stable economy is balanced among business, industry, healthcare and education. Gratiot County is strategically positioned to advance in the future due to its collaborative nature; local governments, business and industry leaders, citizens and community partners such as Alma College, Masonic Pathways and MidMichigan Medical Center-Gratiot (part of the University of Michigan Health System) will continue to work together to make Gratiot County a great place to live, work and play for years to come.