BENTON HARBOR, Mich., (August 9, 2022) – Cornerstone Alliance is charting the course for current and future economic resiliency in Benton Harbor by investing in new harbor infrastructure and free public Wi-Fi. These initiatives provide new points of accessibility, connectivity, and inclusivity, making Benton Harbor and St. Joseph more attractive communities for businesses, residents, and visitors alike. 

"There is no better place to live than in Southwest Michigan, and today’s announcement showcases two examples of how our community is partnering to create a more inclusive and more connected Benton Harbor," said Rob Cleveland, Cornerstone Alliance President and CEO. "On the surface, these projects are both very different, but they are directly linked by their ability to provide better connectivity for Benton Harbor residents. They are built upon more than two decades of commitment and support from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), a partner that has funded projects that grow our area and create better-paying jobs for Berrien County residents. As our community continues to move forward, today’s celebration would not be possible without support from Congressman Fred Upton, Berrien County Community Development, the Berrien County Commissioners, and EGLE." 

St. Joseph River Infrastructure Initiative:
In partnership with Berrien County Community Development, grant funding was secured in 2019 with the required matching funds of $150,000 provided by Cornerstone Alliance.
The Waterways Program grant provided funding for the design and construction of infrastructure that creates new public recreational access at four locations along the St. Joseph River. 

The Riverview Drive site, located across from bread+bar in Benton Harbor, is a new boat dock with an ADA-accessible kayak launch. This location is also used as a drop-off location by the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor Water Taxi. The dock was built with funding provided by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), and reflects the partnership between Cornerstone Alliance, Berrien County Community Development, and Abonmarche. 

Residents and tourists are encouraged to visit exploremishore.com for a schedule for the water taxi, which provides free rides across the river. The water taxi will operate through Labor Day weekend. The site also includes wayfinding information about events, entertainment, shopping, and dining in Michigan's Great Southwest. 

Benton Harbor Wi-Fi Infrastructure Initiative:
In another effort to enhance connectivity in Benton Harbor, Cornerstone Alliance sought assistance from the office of Congressman Fred Upton, who secured a federal grant which will be used to deploy free Wi-Fi throughout certain community gathering spaces in the city of Benton Harbor. This initiative will provide residents with direct access to a global marketplace. 

"I was pleased to support Cornerstone Alliance's efforts to bring free Wi-Fi service to Benton Harbor," said U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph. "This project will help folks in the community more easily connect with important online services, local businesses, and the broader marketplace. I appreciate Cornerstone showing me how they will use this grant to further expand internet service for the people and businesses in the community." 

Cornerstone Alliance recently completed the successful installation of free public Wi-Fi in the Benton Harbor Arts District. The network offers a free wireless internet connection to anyone located in the Arts Park. This project reflects the consistent effort to make Southwest Michigan a more connected place to live, work, and play. Arts District Public Wi-Fi is brought to you by Cornerstone Alliance, Ken Ankli, Developer of Quarternote Lofts, and the City of Benton Harbor. Arts District Public Wi-Fi is intended for outdoor use only. 

"It is imperative that residents and businesses in Benton Harbor have access to the necessary tools of today's world, like the internet, if we wish to create an inclusive community. The world is changing at a rapid pace and the communities that are not investing in technology infrastructure will be left behind. Today's announcement is another example of opportunity for our residents and business community. For some, access to Wi-Fi could mean access to better education, a better job, or a greater market to promote their entrepreneurial goods and services" said Marcus Muhammad, City of Benton Harbor Mayor.

It is estimated that approximately 58% of households within the city of Benton Harbor have a broadband internet subscription (United States Census Bureau). The median household income is estimated at approximately $21,900 (United States Census Bureau). The results of the project are intended to aid residents by mitigating household expenses, providing reliable internet services, and providing families with modern-day capabilities which streamline and increase levels of efficiency in everyday life. 

The Community Public Wi-Fi project seeks to introduce free internet service throughout the community, targeting the city's most densely populated residential areas. The project will identify locations throughout the community for the installation of necessary Wi-Fi apparatuses and internet services and is projected to begin in 2023.