Get your facts right about Benton Harbor

Progress, not perfection, is changing lives in Benton Harbor
By Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad

Benton Harbor has been at the center of several stories over the years. Because many of those stories are ongoing — such as the water crisis and current developments — it is easy for those facts to become incorrect or outdated in the evolving situations. We’ve gathered data points, confirmed historical timelines and detailed key community organizations’ involvements. All of the facts below are linked to or confirmed by a reliable source. We encourage you to use this information when researching and referencing Benton Harbor.

Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that really matter.” Silence all too often invites a platform for the voices of the very few who fear change and prefer the status quo. Silence no more, for the journey we as a community are on must continue. And with it, allow the chorus of those silent volunteers dedicated to a common cause to be the gospel of truth.

Countless communities are working together to address decades of blight, lack of stable local government funding and population losses, all of which exacerbate chronic social and economic challenges. Benton Harbor is no different. While we recognize that much work remains on our journey of change, we believe Benton Harbor is a beacon of hope for communities across the U.S. reflected by the spirit of so many who are actively working every day to bring about a better way of life for all.

Read the full Op-Ed

Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that really matter.” Silence all too often invites a platform for the voices of the very few who fear change and prefer the status quo. Silence no more, for the journey we as a community are on must continue. And with it, allow the chorus of those silent volunteers dedicated to a common cause to be the gospel of truth.

Countless communities are working together to address decades of blight, lack of stable local government funding and population losses, all of which exacerbate chronic social and economic challenges. Benton Harbor is no different. While we recognize that much work remains on our journey of change, we believe Benton Harbor is a beacon of hope for communities across the U.S. reflected by the spirit of so many who are actively working every day to bring about a better way of life for all.

The clearest picture of where a community is going can be seen by reflecting on where it has been. Imagine just thirty years ago, an area with millions of square feet of dilapidated buildings, hundreds of acres lying fallow, an ever widening bridge between skills and available jobs, a community with little to offer its youth, and no new stick-built housing having been constructed in almost 20 years. Pictures do not lie, and aerial photographs of 30 years ago only reinforce what Money Magazine once wrote in placing Benton Harbor last on its list of 300 cities in America.

Compare that stark reality with today in our community – with a Main Street on the positive curve toward vibrancy, $750 million of new vertical construction, over 440 new affordable housing units and more than 1,200 children being served in new and fully staffed Boys and Girls Club facilities.

There are so many examples of innovation and community progress that go beyond words and rhetoric.

  • A church in Benton Heights that runs an auto-repair service to teach a trade while discounting and giving reliable means of transportation to those in need
  • That same church now constructing a community laundromat for partners to use as a gathering place for the delivery of services
  • Over 110 new Habitat for Humanity houses built over the years thanks to the help of local businesses, local government and thousands of volunteers
  • A local developer constructing 66 new housing units for those most in need
  • The local Boys and Girls Club working to open a new Best Buy Technical Teen Center for training and career development
  • Our local hospital opening a community health center in downtown Benton Harbor to increase mentoring services
  • Our local community college offering free tuition for Benton Harbor students
  • Almost a $1 million in upgrades to a local park
  • New security systems installed across all four square miles of the city
  • An 80 unit $22 million housing development being constructed to rebuild old infrastructure, attracting young diverse residents to the area and adding an estimated $100,000 per year to local coiffers
  • A state of the art wi-fi system upgrade being made to benefit all residents in the community
  • And so much more…

Any major transformation is not without challenges, and effective leaders deal with the obstacles they face. Such is the case of the identification of leaded water pipes connecting dwellings to main water lines in Benton Harbor. The United States Environmental Protection Agency first formally recognized this as a national issue in 2018. There are an estimated 12 million such lead pipes located in every state in the U.S.

The city of Benton Harbor has an estimated 2,800 lead pipes that must be replaced. The elected leadership of Benton Harbor has been aggressive in working to secure $20 million of federal and state funding to deal with this problem. That work is over 37 percent complete today, and is anticipated to be finished in the spring of 2023. The City will also use upward of $45 million of federal funds recently provided for a myriad of community and economic development projects, including work on the water plant and water lines.

This issue is the most pressing for our community today, but it should not overshadow 30 years of ongoing collaboration to improve Benton Harbor.

Harbor Shores is an inspiring example of this effort. The Harbor Shores development was a great collaboration between Benton Harbor, Benton Charter Township, the city of St. Joseph, Berrien County and Whirlpool Corporation to channel $84 million toward removing and upgrading wooden and in some cases lead water lines, dealing with 48 state-designated brownfield sites and cleaning up a federal SuperFund site.

When Whirlpool Corporation and its Foundation agreed to take on the Harbor Shores project, while also bringing 400 new jobs to the community, then Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm wrote to then Whirlpool Chairman and CEO Jeff Fettig, “We commit the State of Michigan to support infrastructure funding, along with other state funding as available and when eligible for environmental cleanup, and for development of residential and commercial properties.”

On another one of the Harbor Shores sites, Whirlpool Corporation chose to build its new North American headquarters and renovated an empty building for its Global Refrigeration Technology Center. The over 750 employees in these buildings have only helped to stimulate development along Main Street with a new bank, restaurants and loft apartments. And, as a result, created a pre-covid revenue stream of city income tax funds approaching $1.5 million annually for road and public infrastructure improvements.

Hosting the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship is an investment that is part of the strategy to redevelop and grow our community, a growth that can only be achieved by stimulating investment from within and attracting resources externally from those who learn about and believe in the path we are on to take action of turning possibilities into realities.

The snapshot today is not our endpoint. Rather, it is a tangible reason to see and believe in our continued journey – where all residents, and not just a few, have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. And there the voices of the many are finally heard.

While this journey continues, we welcome the 2022 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. We will use the spotlight this Championship brings us to invite others to learn more, get the facts and become a part of our journey. Together, we are building a better future for the residents of Benton Harbor.

Benton Harbor Water Crisis

  • Benton Harbor received $18.6 million in 2021 from the State of Michigan to replace lead pipes. (Michigan.gov)
  • Around 37% of the identified lead pipe issues have been replaced. (Benton Harbor Lead Service Line Replacements dashboard)
  • Private owner permission for replacement is running higher than other situations in local communities because Benton Harbor is taking on the service line replacements all at once instead of focusing on a new area each couple of years over a long period of time. (Joelle Regovich, Abonmarche Consultants)
  • As part of the MI Clean Water plan, $35,879,524 in funding was secured by the state for Benton Harbor's water infrastructure and lead service line replacement. (Michigan.gov)
  • Over 320,000 bottles of water have been distributed to residents since September 2021. (Michigan.gov) Michigan will continue to provide free bottled water to Benton Harbor residents until all lead service lines are replaced. (EPA.gov)
  • The State of Michigan made certified water filters available to all residents through the Berrien County Health Department, worked with a local pediatrician to monitor blood level trends to keep kids safe, and continued the comprehensive set of public health responses that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) implements with community health partners when water tests from Michigan households show elevated levels of lead. (Michigan.gov)
  • The existing water lines to homes have a wide variety of ages, but many homes built before the 1960s are likely to have some type of lead component in its service line. (City of Benton Harbor's lead service line replacement information for residents)
  • The City of Benton Harbor received a $5.557 million grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to replace lead service lines in 100 locations of lead services. Replacements started in November 2021 and are expected to be finished in May 2022. The city-wide water service replacement project will be complete by April 2023. (City of Benton Harbor's lead service line replacement information for residents and City of Benton Harbor)
  • Work is being done to replace all lead pipe service lines at 4,397 residential, commercial and unoccupied properties in Benton Harbor by Spring 2023. The service lines being replaced are those that Abonmarche found to be active water accounts within the last 10 years. (Joelle Regovich at Abonmarche)
  • On March 17, 2022, Michigan lawmakers approved $45 million for drinking water infrastructure improvements in Benton Harbor specifically. (House Fiscal Agency)

Progress in Benton Harbor

  • The Spectrum Health Center for Better Health was established in October 2020 thanks to funding from the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. Located at 100 W. Main St., Benton Harbor, the Center’s easily accessible location offers Benton Harbor and Benton Heights residents access to health screenings and education, personal protective equipment (PPE), mental health assistance, social navigation services and other support. (Spectrum Health Lakeland)
  • Baseball diamonds, basketball courts and a new playground have been added to Union Park at 1250 Union Ave. The park makeover has been ongoing since 2016. (Whirlpool Corporation)
  • Cressy Commercial Real Estate conducted a full rehabilitation of the building on the corner of Main Street and Pipestone Street in downtown Benton Harbor. Originally built in 1882, City Center Lofts is now a mixed-use space with two commercial spaces and 16 apartments. The original brick facade was restored as part of the project. (Cressy Commercial Real Estate)
  • Whirlpool Corporation and Cornerstone Alliance are partnering on a multi-phased project to create and enhance a network of biking, walking and mountain biking trails on and around Whirlpool Corporation’s Global Headquarters. Some of the trails in this system already exist and will be improved, while others will be added to connect to them. Eventually, the goal is to connect these trails to run along and across M-63 using nearby existing recreational paths. (Whirlpool Corporation)
  • New Heights Christian Community Development Association is in the design phase for a community “Laundry Hub” located at the corner of Red Arrow Highway and Euclid Avenue. They plan to break ground sometime in summer of 2022 and open the Laundry Hub for operation spring of 2023. (Chris Britton, executive director of New Heights CCDA)

Charitable Contributions to Benton Harbor

  • To date, nearly $1 million has been donated by PGA and KitchenAid to the following Benton Harbor youth organizations.
    • Boys & Girls Club to help build new facilities
    • The First Tee of Benton Harbor to help build facility at golf course
    • Additionally, The First Tee receives 50% of all program sales from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship and raises over $10 thousand each event selling all flowers on-site following the championship
    • Benton Harbor Promise to help with scholarships to two-year universities
    • New in 2018, a scholarship was created for Promise recipients who graduate from LMC and want to pursue a four-year degree.
    • A $100 thousand donation to the Benton Harbor Area Schools Athletic Department
  • 2021 marked the seventh annual Holiday Food Sharing which provides over 400 families each year with holiday meals around Christmas. Meals include turkey, fruits/veggies, potatoes, canned and boxed goods and more.

Harbor Shores Development Project

  • The 530 acres of land this development is on was once home to two steel mills, several die cast operators, a brake facility and other manufacturing locations once employing 6,000 people. Whirlpool also closed a manufacturing facility with 1,100 employees.
  • Much of the land had been offered from 1996-2004 for $1.00 per parcel with an incentive to pay no state or local taxes for 10 years. No investors were interested.
  • Cornerstone and Whirlpool Corporation funds were used to acquire land along Graham Avenue and sold to the city of Benton Harbor for $1.00. Whirlpool and the city of St. Joseph donated the land to the Michigan Department of Transportation for new bridge abutments, enabling the City of Benton Harbor to have the 23 acres under an old state interchange to qualify for its acquisition. Harbor Shores in turn bought all of this land for $1.3 million and covered the costs of clean up.
  • Harbor Shores removed and eradicated three million square feet of old, condemned buildings and slabs and hauled 140,000 cubic yards of waste to landfills — enough to fill a football field 80 ft. high.
  • $4 million was invested in Jean Klock Park, an often closed facility that is today maintained by Harbor Shores. The city of Benton Harbor collects over $125,000 annually from non-resident entries and rentals.
  • 795 new housing units and 440 affordable homes were added to the land, including 110 Habitat Homes. 150 additional units are currently in the works.
  • 16 miles of walking/biking trails have since been added to the land.
  • Jean Klock Park earns $150 thousand annually from rentals and visitors.
  • 40% of all Berrien County housing sales in the top price point are in Harbor Shores.
  • Over $120 million worth of roads, airports and water upgrades funded by the government have taken place in Harbor Shores.

KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

  • Based on two studies, one from MEDC and another from Michigan State University, the championship has an average impact of $7-$8 million to the local economy.
  • The TV exposure of Benton Harbor and Harbor Shores results in over an $8 million branding impact each year that helps promote our region and invite guests to visit.
  • Additionally, according to the study, roughly 600 temporary jobs are created around the championship and result in $500,000+ wages for local residents.
  • We utilize over 20 national and local vendors to help prepare and execute the championship.
    • CSC Security uses ROVER Security out of Benton Harbor which has resulted in over $370,000 in fees and wages, and supported over 200+ temporary jobs since 2012.
    • Levy Restaurants partners with local volunteer groups to raise money in concessions
    • The 2018 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship resulted in $10,000 from concession sales.
    • Levy hired 50+ employees from Benton Harbor
    • American Maintenance hires an average of 50+ local employees with wages around $45,000.
    • The KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship contracts local help with miscellaneous needs such as window cleaning and janitorial supplies.
    • In 2018, Cornerstone employed 50 temporary employees with wages around $26,000 to help with parking.
  • 1,400-1,600 volunteers per year help in many facets: disability services shuttle, hospitality services, community showcase, transportation, crowd control and more.
  • The KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship attendees annually represent more than 25 states plus Canadian provinces. Many people travel around to different events annually.

Whirlpool Corporation in Benton Harbor, Michigan

  • Whirlpool Corporation is committed to being the best kitchen and laundry company in the world in constant pursuit of improving life at home.
  • Whirlpool Corporation was founded in the Benton Harbor community by Lou and Fred Upton in 1911.
  • The company’s first major order for 100 washing machines came almost immediately, but a problem arose when a cast-iron gear in the transmission failed in each machine. However, Lou Upton replaced the defective parts with a new, cut-steel gear in every single machine. Impressed with the fledgling company’s business ethics, the customer doubled its order to 200 washing machines.
  • In 1929, the company merged with Nineteen Hundred Corporation of New York, and was almost moved to that state, but Lou Upton intervened and kept the company in Benton Harbor/St. Joseph.
  • After World War II, the Whirlpool Foundation was created and has since provided over $10 million of funding annually to the local, community-based organizations along with scholarships for deserving youth.
  • In 2012, Whirlpool invested $125 million into a new North American Headquarters, reclaimed a city park for public use, brought 180 new jobs to the area and created the Global Refrigeration Technology Center. Whirlpool Corporation pays more than $300,000 annually to the city of Benton Harbor for a donation that exceeds the assessed taxes that would have been collected without an abatement.
  • Since the Whirlpool Compass Fountain, bluffside park and Harbor Shores projects, over 1,600 new hotel rooms and almost 1,000 jobs have been created in the immediate area.
  • Whirlpool Corporation and its suppliers raise $2.3 million annually through a charitable golf event that supports the Boys and Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor, the three local public school foundations, First Tee of Benton Harbor and several other youth-based organizations.
  • In 2021, the company reported sales of approximately $22 billion, employing 69,000 people worldwide at its 54 manufacturing and technology research centers.
  • Whirlpool Corporation has always been invested in America, operating nine United States manufacturing locations.
  • In 2021, Whirlpool Corporation announced a pledge to increase its employment of Black employees at all levels over a five-year period. The commitment includes increasing apprenticeships, mentoring and internships with Black youth.