Redevelopment Ready Certification, is it worth it?

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDC’s) not so new certification program, Redevelopment Ready Communities (RRC), has been a point of contention amongst the economic development community in Michigan. While some simply have a hard time finding the time to go through the certification process, others simply do not think they should have to do it in order to access Community Development funds and other benefits. In my role as the Economic Development and Communications Director for the City of Oak Park, I jumped at the opportunity to become a Certified Redevelopment Ready Community.

758215fd-f2dd-4e3b-aedc-3cdeadf77178-originalWhile I know that many communities with a traditional downtown have always had access to MEDC’s grant programs, other suburban communities have not. Oak Park is an inner-ring suburb of Detroit with no traditional downtown and therefore no opportunity to apply for MEDC’s grant programs or to utilize Patronicity. While the choice to participate was an easy one for us, the program offers many more benefits to make it enticing for all to want to participate.

RRC helps to prepare communities so they can better attract and retain businesses, offer superior customer service, and have a streamlined development approval process. I know most communities do a good job, but we can all improve in some areas. Some of the other benefits include assistance in promoting your priority sites as well as technical assistance. Working with the RRC team was easy and they provided all the resources to help create the new policies, ordinances, etc. that are required for certification. I also found that other certified communities were more than willing to share their ideas.

I would encourage communities to conduct the assessment and then begin incorporating the Redevelopment Ready tools. Also, begin talking with your Planning Commission and City Council members to make sure they support your efforts. The support from them makes all the difference on the success of your community in making these changes. The RRC Program took time but we are already beginning to reap the benefits.

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Energy Opportunities in Michigan

alternative-alternative-energy-clean-356049Every so often, there is a change in government policy that creates opportunities for jobs and new investment in our communities. One of our roles in economic development is to help our local government leaders learn about these opportunities and educate themselves as much as possible to make informed decisions. We have one such opportunity in front of us today.

The state of Michigan established a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), requiring that the state’s 84 electric providers in Michigan secure 10% of their energy from renewable sources by 2015. In 2016, the State of Michigan increased its renewable portfolio standards to 15% by 2021.

In addition, last month, Consumers Energy announced it had filed a plan with the MPSC that outlined a path to using zero coal, while ensuring affordable and reliable energy for Michigan families and businesses. Under the plan, the company would increase renewable energy from 11% today to 37% by 2030. The company has a goal of reducing its carbon emissions and eliminating the use of coal to generate electricity by 2040. The company proposes to add 550 MW of wind to help them reach Michigan’s goal of 15% by 2021. They also expect to add 5,000 MW of solar energy with ramp-up throughout the 2020’s.

DTE Energy is also planning to reduce its carbon footprint and incorporate substantially more renewable and cleaner sources of energy into its generation mix. In 2017, DTE announced a broad sustainability initiative to reduce the company’s carbon emissions by more than 80 percent while continuing to provide reliable and affordable power to its 2.2 million customers. DTE will achieve this reduction by incorporating substantially more renewable energy, eliminating coal, using low emission natural gas, continuing to operate its zero-emission Fermi 2 nuclear power plant, and improving options for customers to save energy and reduce bills. Recently, DTE filed plans to double its renewable energy capacity by 2022, adding another 1,000 MW of wind and solar and driving investment of more than $1.7 billion in Michigan’s energy sector.

What can we do to help our communities become prepared for renewable energy?

During the initial RPS period, a majority of wind-generated projects were developed in areas such as Michigan’s Thumb and Gratiot County among others. With the increase in the RPS and the recently released goals of our largest utilities, we anticipate that there may be an opportunity for additional wind and solar projects.

In our area, developers are already contacting landowners to secure sites for solar and wind projects. Local government officials are considering amendments to their master plans to address renewable energy production. They are also looking at developing zoning ordinances that align with the community’s plan for renewable energy production.

As economic developers, we may want to assist our local government officials by providing educational opportunities related to solar and wind energy. MSU Extension recently provided an excellent workshop called, “Shining a Light on Agricultural Solar Energy Development”, which provided great information for property owners considering solar development.

Webinars

Collaborating with MSU Extension and local government associations to develop a similar workshop on wind energy would be of great benefit to our local government officials trying to address these opportunities and challenges; some for the first time. Potential topics could include an overview of the industry and siting wind turbines and their operational characteristics. You may also want to invite an official from one of the Thumb or Gratiot Communities to share their experience with wind development. As the local economic developer, you may want to prepare an economic impact analysis to show the property tax increase provided by a wind energy project.

At the end of the day, it is a local government decision and our role is to ensure that these public officials are able to make well-informed decisions for the economic betterment of their communities.

Authored by: JoAnn Crary, CEcD, President, Saginaw Future, Inc. JoAnn is a long-time member of MEDA and our 2018 Committee Chair.

NOTE: For more information on the webinars mentioned, you can contact M. Charles Gould, Agricultural Bioenergy and Energy Conservation Educator, Michigan State University Extension, PH: 616-994-4547, gouldm@anr.msu.edu.

public policy (noun): government policies that affect the whole population

Public policy is not something everyone thinks about but is very important in how our society is managed. The Center for Civic Education defines specific attributes of public policy that help to expand on the above basic definition:

  • Policy is made in response to some sort of issue or problem that requires attention. Policy is what the government chooses to do (actual) or not do (implied) about a particular issue or problem.
  • Policy might take the form of law, or regulation, or the set of all the laws and regulations that govern a particular issue or problem.
  • Policy is made on behalf of the “public.”
  • Policy is oriented toward a goal or desired state, such as the solution of a problem.
  • Policy is ultimately made by governments, even if the ideas come from outside government or through the interaction of government and the public.
  • Policymaking is part of an ongoing process that does not always have a clear beginning or end, since decisions about who will benefit from policies and who will bear any burden resulting from the policy are continually reassessed, revisited and revised.

You can clearly see that a key ingredient for good public policy is the “public” part. That is you and me. When we vote, we are making a choice of individuals we trust to work through the policy process, often referred to as sausage making, with our best interests in mind.

But there are additional ways we can participate. When there is a problem or issue that needs to be addressed, do you reach out to policy makers and let them know how you feel? What you believe is the right thing to do? Do you send a letter/note, make a call or attend a town hall meeting to share your support or opposition?

These are a variety of ways that you can communicate effectively with those in positions to shape public policy, and they want to hear from you. This is why the Marquette County Ambassadors have focused, for decades, on building strong relationships with our elected officials and engaging in policy creation and debate of issues affecting our community.

The Marquette County Ambassadors are a privately funded group of business, education, community and government leaders from across Marquette County whose mission it is to “promote and foster economic vitality throughout Marquette County and the Upper Peninsula, to carry the story of the Marquette County area to others, and salute those who deserve recognition.”

For decades the Marquette County Ambassadors have made trips to Lansing to meet with legislators and state department personnel. The purpose of the trip is threefold: to inform our legislators of relevant issues affecting Marquette County and the Upper Peninsula, to hear their perspectives on activities related to state government, and to share with them our position on critical issues related to the Upper Peninsula. This year we were proud to have partners from Baraga and Dickinson counties join us.

The Ambassadors researched and produced position papers in four major areas:

  • Economic Development
  • Education
  • Local Government
  • Infrastructure

Many, if not all, of the issues raised or initiatives supported are not specific to Marquette County, but rather the Upper Peninsula as a whole. Regional cooperation continues to play a vital role in the betterment of the Upper Peninsula and U.P. communities have a long history of working together. Our legislators appreciate the regional collaboration and single voice on issues they are pursuing.

So at the end of the day, if we want public policy to truly address the needs and concerns of the public, then we “the public” need to engage. For issues and legislation we are watching, hop on to our website at www.marquette.org.

Authored By: Amy Clickner, CEcD, CFRM, Chief Executive Officer, Lake Superior Community Partnership. Amy is a Member at Large on MEDA’s Board of Directors.

 

Grow Your Talent Pool

Some of us have been around long enough to remember what a tight labor market looks like. It’s certainly better than the alternative. A carefully crafted talent strategy can be the difference between winning projects and being left on the sidelines.

Building Construction 3The first step in a talent strategy is to determine who to collaborate with on implementation. You will need expertise and resources and no economic development agency has enough of either. Colleges, universities and workforce development agencies are obvious partners, but here are a few others you might consider:

  • Public sector – communities can’t grow without jobs and investment
  • Private sector – they have as much to gain as you and they might be willing to provide funding
  • Recruitment agencies – they need talent, too
  • Military branches of government – they offer a ready supply of returning veterans
  • Faith-based organizations – they have great networks
  • Public and intermediate schools – school counselors can guide and influence graduating seniors

Business Professionals2The easiest win in the talent attraction game is commuters. They drive out of your county to pursue higher pay within the region or jobs that aren’t readily available in your area. In a tight labor market, wages typically go up. Companies are desperate for talent and will provide better pay and benefits. The key to this strategy is awareness. Try posting advertisements on well-placed billboards or in newspapers outside the county to announce local job opportunities. Electronic billboards can be an affordable way to post your next job fair or list a company’s hard-to-fill engineering job.

Recruiting talent outside of your area is difficult and can be expensive. First, partner with real estate brokers to develop listings and welcome packets. You’ll need housing if you are going to recruit workforce. Second, identify markets similar to yours where available workers are located. Place advertisements in their local newspapers that point people to a jobs board or website where job postings are available. Companies might help to pay for these ads, so remember to ask.

Emerging Leaders for WebsiteOn average, about 30% of high school graduates are not going to college. This is your workforce of tomorrow. This is a great partnership opportunity for educators, the private sector and economic developers. Professional days, facility tours, company profiles on MI Bright Future and summer camps can help to educate young people regarding employment opportunities. They won’t have a lot of work experience, so promote internships and job shadowing.

These are just a few of the strategies you can employ to recruit talent to your community. As you talk to your partners, you will discover other strategies and programs. Remember that if you do nothing, your talent might be someone else’s target. So be aggressive and you can win the talent war.

Authored by: Dan Casey, Chief Executive Officer, Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County. Dan is a Member at Large on MEDA’s Board of Directors.

Making Connections for the Betterment of Our Community

Business development is a vital piece of the puzzle in creating vibrant, successful communities. There are several tools available for municipalities to use that create revenue streams to help finance economic investment, such as business retention visits, tax increment financing, brownfield redevelopment, tax abatements, and talent and training funding just to name a few. All are examples of the core strategies and instruments utilized by the City of Auburn Hills. Most of them are funded or authorized through our State legislature.

Part of my role in business development is engaging and interacting with our elected officials in Lansing. We continually have conversations about issues impacting business and investment at the local and regional levels. As a practitioner, I work on behalf of the City and its business community to advocate why funding these programs is so important. We often invite our elected officials from the State and Federal levels to visit companies so that they can witness firsthand the success of the tools we use on a daily basis.

Last week, State Representative Tim Greimel and State Senator Jim Marleau visited BorgWarner in Auburn Hills to talk about issues in Lansing and how they will impact areas like infrastructure, health care, and schools.

The budget process in Lansing is unclear at times, but it’s important to continue to reach out to elected officials so that they can assist us in achieving sustainable growth and development, which will ultimately bring improved quality of life for the residents of Auburn Hills. My role is to work with business leaders and City officials to make these worthwhile connections. As you can imagine, it’s an exciting and rewarding job.

Authored by: Stephanie Carroll, Manager of Business Development and Community Relations. Stephanie is MEDA’s Board Secretary and Emerging Leaders Committee Chair.

Stephanie blogs regularly at https://auburnhillsdevelopment.com/

How Facebook Can Be An Economic Developer’s Best Friend

Picture2As we all know, social media is extremely powerful, and can be used for both very good (and very bad) purposes. I must say that I resisted it for many years, and only relented when my Vice President Brent Jones recommended we create a Facebook page to promote our organization (the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership)’s activities. In order to get followers, I found it best to create my own personal page, add friends, and then recommended they follow us. Little did I know that what began as a few posts here and there would turn into one of our most important communication tools, directly reaching over 2,300 friends. My goal for this month’s MEDA blog is to give you a few thoughts on how you can utilize your Facebook successfully in your own economic development efforts.

Communicating Value
One of the biggest challenges economic developers face is demonstrating value to their stakeholders (board members, funders, government and business leaders, public at large). You not only have to do good work, but also have to communicate it. A constant flow of quick stories about what you do helps build an impression over time that you are tirelessly striving to improve your local economy, which brings you lots of credibility. It also creates a more positive perception of your community in general, which can in turn increase resident and existing business confidence in the area, and also serve as a resource to attract new investment.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
This is something that I didn’t expect when I started, but quickly found out that Facebook is the single most impactful tool to connect people with jobs. As we all know, the communication of employment opportunities has become more fragmented (you no longer just look in the help wanted section of the newspaper). With pretty much everyone on Facebook, and the ability to share posts with your network, the exposure of job postings mushrooms very quickly to reach more people than any other form of media. Given the tight labor market, we are finding it effective right now in engaging with our commuter population (70% of our residents leave the county for work every day), who are not actively looking for a job but are intrigued about the possibility of finding something closer to home (particularly when facing this winter weather).

Balance The Personal With The Professional
This one is tricky, and probably the biggest reason why some of my peers don’t want to mix the two. Personally, I think it is valuable for people to see that you are not only passionate and driven with your career, but can also have fun too (like me with University of Michigan athletics – Go Blue!). That being said, I try very hard to avoid anything controversial that doesn’t relate directly to my job. I also strive to ensure pretty much everything has a positive, uplifting tone to it (except when my Wolverines lose L).

If you would like to discuss further, feel free to reach out to me on Facebook!

 

Justin Horvath, CEcD
President/CEO
Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership
Ph: (989) 725-9241
Email: jhorvath@sedpweb.org
Web: http://sedpweb.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sedpweb

Justin is the 2018 Board Treasurer for the Michigan Economic Developers Association.

Who Are You? A DNA Test for Municipalities

Question MarkWe hear a lot today about ancestry testing and finding out about our heritage. Many of us want to know “who we really are.” While these tests can be fun, they can also tell us a lot about ourselves that we thought we knew but had all wrong. For instance, we may know that our ancestors emigrated from a specific country, and claim that as our heritage, but with the help of these tests, we may learn that said ancestor only briefly lived in the “country of origin” and our actual roots lie elsewhere. The test may not change some of the facts we already know; it just gave us a different way to look at them.

Today I want to talk about a DNA test for municipal units – NAICS. The North American Industry Classification System is a great way to take a new look at your community. Just like the DNA tests described above, it can tell you so much on many different levels. At the broadest level, the two digit code, you can learn what industries in general are represented in your community. You may ask, “Why is this important? I know my companies and what industries they are in” – but do you? You may have a broad thought in your head such as automotive or even supplier; but did you know that there is no category “automotive” in NAICS? Did you know that what you considered an automotive supplier could be classified as a wholesaler? This is a new way of understanding your business community and the types of companies who may find your community attractive. Now you have opened a potential pathway to new markets and opportunities to improve your tax base.

Digging deeper into the code at the three digit level allows you to get a little more specific and go from retail trade to motor parts supplier. At the four digit level, you can find that “automotive” label, but it won’t be stand alone. It will come with something like automotive parts dealer. You can get a list of NAICS classifications for your community through a database such as Hoovers. Your local librarian should be able to help you with that effort if you do not already subscribe to one.

I encourage you to take the leap and find out “who you are” with your NAICS test.

Authored by Khalfani Stephens, Director of Economic Development, City of Farmington Hills, and 2018 MEDA Board Vice President.

Happy New Year: Make Habits Not Resolutions!

As we usher in another year, the prevailing conversation around the water cooler centers around our resolutions for 2018. We also know that most of those resolutions (diet, exercise, read more, etc.) rarely make it past the first quarter. That’s why we need to focus on making better habits and not just making resolutions.

It is safe to say that most successful people have certain habits in common. There is a great debate about what exactly those habits are, or what combination of habits guarantee success. But I think it boils down to committing to master those habits in areas that you have weaknesses.

I have read many self-help books and taken countless professional/personal development courses throughout my life. While there have been great nuggets of advice that I have taken from those courses, the one course that has helped me navigate my day to day and realize some personal goals is Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

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Covey breaks down 7 habits that maximizes your time, effort and energy and encourages you to not only be a more effective leader, but also an effective follower. Trying to wholeheartedly incorporate all 7 habits on day one is not realistic, so again I reiterate working on those habits where you feel you may have some weaknesses first.

So, for this New Year, I am reinforcing Habit 2, “Begin with the end in mind”. I am going to take the time to meditate on my goals, create my vision board and tweak my personal mission statement. Having a resolution of dropping a few pounds, or eating healthier is great, but if you commit to maintaining the habit of a healthy lifestyle your success can be found in your living.

Authored by 2018 MEDA Board President Monique Holliday-Bettie, EDFP, Economic Development Manager, DTE Energy, Economic Development

Economic Development is Community Development

Times are good for most people right now with memories of the great recession fading fast, but for economic developers, today is the time to “make hay while the sun shines”.

Good times have their own set of challenges, but they also provide great opportunities.   The first is that of workforce development. I remember not too many years ago when the rallying cry was “Workforce Development is Economic Development”. While it still rings true today, and there are good jobs being created in most communities, employers are having difficulty filling them and retaining workers. This is a complex issue that involves wage rates, education, skills, mobility of workers, lifestyle choices, costs of living, and many more factors. Economic developers need to work with employers and other organizations to create holistic and custom solutions that allow local people to move up the economic ladder into these higher paying jobs.

buildings-set_23-2147505271Additionally, an improving economy is creating labor shortages in the construction industry and a high demand for construction materials. This, along with rising interest rates, is pushing development costs upward. These higher costs lead to project financing gaps, which causes the private sector to ask communities for economic development.

But, in these good times, should communities agree to approve economic incentives? The answer is yes, but only if it is in the best interest of the community by taking advantage of the today’s strong economy to forge a better future for everyone. Most communities are no longer in a state of desperation where generous incentives are necessary just to attract private investment of any kind. Instead, Economic Developers can now seek to facilitate development agreements between communities, businesses, and developers that share the costs and benefits of development. Jobs, income, investment, tax revenue, business spending, infrastructure, education, training, etc., all are part of the mix and should be considered in making public decisions to approve private development incentives.

Now is the best time to for Economic Development Professionals to work with communities and businesses to demonstrate to all that Economic Development is Community Development.

Authored by: Karl Dorshimer, CEcD, EDFP, Director of Economic Development, Lansing Economic Area Partnership, and 2017 MEDA Board Treasurer

OppSites – A Great Tool for Any Economic Developer

I wanted to share a great tool with my fellow Economic Developers that is easy to use and very helpful. It is called OppSites. The mission of OppSites is to “connect the people who are involved in building and rebuilding our cities.”

While the company launched its product in 2014, I was not introduced to it until the ICSC ReCon conference in 2016. The company provided a free webinar and encouraged everyone to use the “FREE” tool. With nothing to lose, I gave it a try and I am happy to report it was a great decision. It has helped me to promote some of my redevelopment sites to developers that I would never have been able to connect with otherwise and, better yet, promote difficult sites with absent owners.

The OppSites program has 3 major components:

OppSitesMatchmaker – OppSites Matchmaker makes it easy to describe your goals and delivers connections between people who have aligned interests, so you can make projects happen.

Messenger – While Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provide instant messaging between friends and family, the OppSites Messenger connects public and private sector real estate professionals as well as economic development leaders who have aligned interests.

Marketplace – OppSites empowers local leaders to showcase areas in their communities where new development or redevelopment would support the community goals. Unlike typical commercial real estate listings, the OppSites Marketplace is not a marketplace for the buying or selling of property, OppSites is a marketplace for what is possible in every city even if the property is not currently listed with a real estate firm.

“If you want to attract development to your city, OppSites allow you to showcase opportunities in the OppSites Marketplace, which is free and publicly accessible. It allows you to market the properties in a unique way and showcase every aspect of the site, your development ideas, incentives, and of course your community profile. Whether the site is currently listed or not, you can showcase it and indicate the availability status. How great is that? You can actually market those difficult properties owned by difficult or absent property owners without it ever hitting the real estate market.” said Ken Bouchard at OppSites.

The company began in 2014 and, since I have been a user, I have seen many upgrades to the user experience as well. They are constantly evolving and listening to the needs of their customers to make the product even better. I would encourage everyone to utilize this system to promote their available sites and gain the exposure I have. The more users the system has the better the outcome for all. You can try it for free today by visiting OppSites.

Authored by MEDA Board Member and Education Committee Chair Kim Marrone, who is the Economic Development and Communications Director for the City of Oak Park.