By Ara Topouzian
Michigan Economic Developers Association Board of Directors Secretary
President and Chief Executive Officer, Troy Chamber of Commerce
For several years, I have enjoyed volunteering on the MEDA Annual Meeting committee. I have moderated, lectured, and even chaired the event.
This year, I am co-chairing the Annual Meeting with my friend Maureen Krauss, Detroit Regional Chamber. This year, we exceeded (broke records!) the budget for sponsorship, which tells us that we are on the right path for the content and theme for this year’s event, held in Detroit.
The theme is RetoolED. It will take place from August 23-26, 2016 and headquartered at the historic Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit.
Much has been written about Detroit since its bankruptcy and how it is on the rebound and continues to redevelop itself to become the “cool place” to be part of once again. I have found it absolutely amazing the number of small business and start-up companies that have jumped in and created successful ventures within the city of Detroit. The entertainment and restaurant options alone have doubled just in a few short years and we are seeing the true entrepreneurial spirit occurring in Detroit. In addition, we have recently secured the city’s mayor Mike Duggan as one of our speakers!
It was natural to develop a theme for economic developers which addresses how we rebrand and re-invite as the economy gets better in Michigan.
Some of the topics will address:
Repurposing Small Buildings
Given the fluid nature of small businesses, whether it be through merger or failure, a lot of small buildings are left with FOR SALE or RENT signs in their windows in towns, cities and villages. More often, communities are left trying to find tenants without making changes that will compromise local heritage. Hear some experiences and learn some good practices for the adaptive reuse of small buildings.
This session will cover strategies for funding economic development. The speaker, who has years of experience in working with large and small communities, will delve into best practices for running a successful campaign, how to develop a long-term strategy for sustainable funding, and how to implement that strategy with tips on maintaining relationships with your investors.
Rethinking Your Region
Now that region-based economic development is an established strategy, there are any examples of success from around the country. This session will give you new ideas for taking advantage of your regional program.
Regrowing Your Knowledge of Agriculture in Economic Development
Michigan agriculture supports over $100 billion of economic activity every year and accounts for about 22% of the state’s employment. The diversity of our agriculture industry is second only to California, with more than 300 commodities produced on a commercial basis. Michigan is home to more than 50,000 farms, most owned by families or individuals, as well as many Fortune 500 food companies. With all this activity, what should local and regional economic developers focus on to leverage these opportunities to create growth in their communities. This session will offer both a state and local perspective on those opportunities and what can be done by economic developers to understand and partner with the agriculture community.
Besides the educational sessions, the Annual Meeting is one of the few opportunities for members to network and grow on those relationships. One of the ways we will look to enhance the networking this year by having a pub crawl Wednesday night and we have several walking and bike tours of some of the “watering holes,” both new and historic, near the hotel.
I hope to see you at the Annual Meeting – this year promises to be one of the best we have had in several years! Click here for more information or to register.