Regional partnerships in Michigan are gaining ground with enthusiastic response from the businesses, municipalities, and citizens of our communities. MEDC, Prima Civitas Foundation, federal departments, and charitable foundations have encouraged and supported regional planning and project implementation. Many such initiatives are underway across the state. These efforts deserve continued support based on their accomplishments to date and future potential.
The example that I know best is the I-69 International Trade Corridor Partnership (MEDC Region 8) which has been motivated by the opportunity for new regional marketing and business development incentives. Achievements to date include Next Michigan incentive support for Pinnacle Foods’ Imlay City expansion project, over 230 attendees at last year’s Regional Summit, positive coverage of the region’s new Exporter of the Year Awards, CS Mott Foundation support for industry cluster efforts, and MEDC funding for regional marketing and outreach.
Area businesses are responding positively, as evidenced by a recent experience had by Justin Horvath, CEO of Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership. A member of the four-county I-69 Corridor partnership that includes Shiawassee, Genesee, Lapeer, and St. Clair Counties, Horvath found himself at a restaurant drive-through in his community when the manager peeked out and said, “We really like the I-69 Corridor work you guys are doing. Keep up the good work.” Horvath explains that the manager had not attended meetings and had not been approached personally about the regional effort, rather was reacting to news articles and corridor marketing that he had seen in the community.
Other firms in the area have expressed similar enthusiasm, many anticipating new business opportunities as a result of the regional efforts. Northgate, a Flint-area company formerly known as Security Packaging reported that the selection of their new corporate name was influenced by regional I-69 Corridor efforts that position the area as “Michigan’s Bluewater Gateway.”
Municipal support is strong as Shiawassee County Administrator Margaret McAvoy recently referred to the I-69 Corridor as a “Ribbon of Hope,” pointing to the progress to date of the I-69 Corridor’s 35-member Next Michigan Development Corporation that she chairs as well as future plans for collaboration along what MDOT has declared a Corridor of International Significance.
In terms of external reaction, Paul Brake, City Manager of Grand Blanc and Horvath made a presentation to over 150 US economic developers and site consultants at the IEDC Leadership Summit in Orlando in January regarding the I-69 International Trade Corridor collaboration. Brake reports that attendees were very interested and envious of the new funding and incentive programs that Michigan regional partnerships have been able to access.
The I-69 Corridor partnership has received strong support from Prima Civitas Foundation. Former Lansing Mayor David Hollister and legal counsel Jim Smiertka have played significant roles. Their leadership, advice, and facilitation have resulted in a growing level of collaboration and expedient action. The NMDC acted in February to approve municipal applications for Next Michigan Renaissance Zone districts for eligible multi-modal businesses with expansion plans. Based on the great success of Lansing’s “Keep GM” campaign, Hollister formed PCF in 2006 and dedicated the organization to the support of regional efforts such as this.
The greatest lessons from this effort are: focus on achieving measurable results, find points of mutual interest, and create a structure that allows for broad-based participation.
The I-69 Corridor partnership is just one of a number of successful regional projects across the state. MEDA plans to feature some of them at this year’s annual meeting in August. In the meantime, please use our MEDA Facebook and LinkedIn pages to tell us about your innovative partnerships, progress to date, and opportunities that can be shared among our members.
Authored By: Janice Karcher, Vice President-Economic Development, Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce
Karcher serves as President of the Michigan Economic Developers Association Board of Directors and represents the I-69 International Trade Corridor Partnership (Region 8) on the MEDC’s Collaborative Development Council. The Genesee Regional Chamber proudly provides administrative and fiscal support for the I-69 Corridor Partnership and the I-69 International Trade Corridor Next Michigan Development Corporation.