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.
While 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.