Celebrating Two Centuries of History and Prosperity
A Welcoming Community with a Vibrant Spirit
For the city of Tecumseh, 2024 will be a year to remember as it gears up to celebrate an historical milestone; its bicentennial, marking a rich history that dates back to its founding in 1824. Ideally situated in Lenawee County, Tecumseh boasts a unique blend of small-town charm, perfectly complemented by its proximity to the major metropolitan hubs of Ann Arbor, just 25 miles to the south, and Toledo, Ohio, 45 miles to the northwest. As a community, Tecumseh stands as an example of warm hospitality, a resilient economy, and an ongoing commitment to collaboration and growth.
Mayor Jack Baker describes, “We have what I feel is a very strong presence in Southeast Michigan. To be able to produce what we do, the lifestyle that people can accomplish living here, is beyond what most communities would ever, ever imagine. We are special, we are very proud of that, and you will not find another community in this area that is more welcoming, more inviting, more encouraging than the city of Tecumseh.”
Small Town Feel with Big Opportunities
Tecumseh’s population of 8,700 may define it as a small town, but its spirit and vibrancy set it apart. City Manager, Dan Swallow highlights the benefits of living close to two larger metropolitan areas, noting, “Those residents who live here can have a high quality, high standard of living, here in Tecumseh at a lower cost, but also have access to all those larger metropolitan areas.”
Mayor Baker emphasizes the town’s welcoming nature, where residents and visitors alike are greeted with friendly waves and open arms. “We are a big family. We are very welcoming. What makes it such an inviting community is the residents and the residential areas. When you have that buy-in from the residents nothing can happen but good things.”
Economic Diversification and Resilience
The city has successfully weathered economic changes, particularly the transition from a company town centered around Tecumseh Products Company to a more diversified economic landscape. “They employed at their heyday, over 5,000 employees,” portrays Mayor Baker.
“Now think about that. We’re a community of 8,500. We went from having a company that employed 5,000 men and women, and now that company is gone. And I can tell you that this community has not skipped a beat since then. We have gone and dealt with losing those employees, and this community is more magnificent, and more vibrant than it ever has been.”
Swallow underscores Tecumseh’s commitment to economic development, sharing the city’s recent success in attracting Dorin USA, a compressor manufacturing company. “They have a new building and are a distribution center at our Business and Technology Park,” he conveys, adding that the city has also seen interest related to the battery industry, as suppliers look at the conversion from internal combustion to battery-powered vehicles.
“There is a lot of interest in producing batteries, and also the parts,” he maintains. “One of the business advantages we have is that we have lower cost lands for development, as well as access to an employment market from all of those metropolitan areas that are a commutable distance.”
Kellyjo Gillmore, Economic Development Director says that the city also has a technology campus and is focused on working with state and regional economic entities to get new businesses to that site.
Tecumseh remains deeply rooted in the automotive industry and is home to notable businesses like German company, Kirchoff Automotive. Additionally, technology-focused entities such as Glov Enterprises, which specializes in plastic extrusions, and Erwin Industries, manufacturers of metal materials, show the diverse economic development in the city. “We have some unique technology-based businesses here in Tecumseh. For a small community, to support that is, I think, impressive,” Swallow asserts.
A Vibrant Small Business Community
With 300 businesses throughout the community, support for small enterprises is a priority. “Tecumseh does a wonderful job of focusing not only on the vibrancy of our downtown, the small businesses, but also looking at where we can grow responsibly. I think one thing that we have focused on in the past is our downtown corridor,” says Gillmore.
“We have a very unique and robust small business collection. We have everything from coffee shops to a variety of ethnic restaurants, from Mediterranean to Mexican, and Italian. Boulevard Market has wonderful cheeses and wines from all over the world. We have this incredible melting pot of Americana and some European-influenced downtown stores that we are very proud of.”
Preservation of the historic buildings in the heart of the city is also a focus, keeping the existing character while updating them to allow for future growth opportunities.
Martin’s Home Center, an enduring presence in downtown Tecumseh, symbolizes the city’s strong sense of community spirit. During a significant snowstorm 13 years ago, the store’s roof collapsed. Despite the option to relocate to the outskirts at potentially lower costs, owner Donald Jr. Martin chose to remain downtown, investing in a multimillion-dollar building that revitalized the area.
Baker expresses his gratitude for their continued impact, recounting, “Martin’s Home Center has been in business with the city of Tecumseh for over 70 years. It’s an Ace Hardware store, but it’s more than that. You don’t stay in business for 70 years in a community unless you do things the right way. They are our anchor downtown.”
Infrastructure and Quality of Life
Tecumseh’s dedication to infrastructure is evident in its aggressive capital improvements program, which Swallow says is taken seriously by both city council and city staff. He mentions the road funding challenges faced by the state, sharing that Tecumseh reached out to voters to approve a local millage for improving roads within the community. Noting that the approval was secured, he boasts, “I think most residents will say we have some of the best road conditions in our area and our region.”
The city has also invested in water and wastewater facilities, ensuring that these systems are functioning well, and maximizing energy efficiency. Harris acknowledges, “We can offer water and sewer rates that are lower than a lot of our surrounding communities because we’ve made those investments along the way.” Additionally, the city continues to invest in the Tecumseh Center for the Arts, redoing the roof, HVAC system, and exterior finishes to keep this gem of the community in top-notch condition.
Considerable investments have been directed toward enhancing the quality of life in Tecumseh, particularly in the downtown area, making it a welcoming and inviting area of the community. Swallow details ongoing efforts to improve the downtown streetscape, to draw more residents and visitors to the core. In addition to downtown improvements, Tecumseh places a strong emphasis on parks and recreation. The community is home to an expansive 350 acres of parkland, providing diverse outdoor experiences, and works tirelessly to maintain these assets.
Tourism and Festivals
Tourism is big business in Tecumseh, and annual events, such as the Appleumpkin Festival, draw tens of thousands of visitors to the area every fall. The city’s investment in an art trail, seasonal ice, and sand sculpture festivals, car shows, music in the park, and a festive beach party every summer show the thriving atmosphere of the community.
Multiple community entities work together to bring these events to life, as Gillmore details, “We have a very active Downtown Development Authority. We have a Central Business Association made up of all our downtown business owners who work in conjunction with the city to put on all of our events. We have at least one event a month, if not two during our summer and spring. That collaboration between the city and the DDA and our CBA brings life and vibrancy and input from our business owners and our residents on a routine basis.”
Looking Towards a Bright Future
With a diverse economy, welcoming residents, and a commitment to growth and collaboration, Tecumseh is poised for a bright future.
Mayor Baker attributes the city’s ongoing success to the exceptional team by his side, stating, “We have ourselves the finest city manager that I’ve ever worked with, by far. We have an economic development director who pours her heart and soul into making this community what it is. That’s what it takes. I know how to surround myself with good people. And when you do that, good things happen. You bring those people on board and there’s no limit to what you can do.”
AT A GLANCE
What: A friendly and welcoming community with continued growth on the horizon.
Where: Lenawee County, Michigan