Visit Michigan’s West Coast at the 2017 MEDA Annual Meeting

1497368704823-c0ng1pxsv8-d4339e1d3f562bfae411f84b92bf0e4fThis year’s annual MEDA conference will start with a bang and end just as strong.

Kicking off the event are Haworth’s CEO Franco Bianchi and Herman Miller’s CEO Brian Walker, both at the helm of separate world class office furniture manufacturing headquarters in the region.  They are speaking on finding better qualified employees, as well as an initiative they are co-leading to encourage employers to help local education systems understand employer needs in order to better prepare students for careers. Day two offers three excellent tours – a diverse range of unique developments on the lakeshore. These include:

Learn about the technology it takes to commercialize new specialty and bio-based chemicals, all while making them cost effective for the organizations manufacturing them. MSUBI has incorporated science, engineering, operational, and business expertise into their program to make them one of the top regional research and innovation resources, where commercialization is happening on the banks of Lake Macatawa in this facility that is also part of the Holland SmartZone.

West Michigan is known for our craft beer industry. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to tour one of our breweries and find learn about their impressive Brew on Site system which attributes to their industry’s success.

The Holland Energy Park is an international example of a municipal utility with a plan for the community’s future that includes baseline generation, beautifying the eastern gateway to downtown Holland and restoring wetlands. This brand new combined-cycled natural gas power plant is the only plant of its type to be built in the United States this year. Experience some of the latest energy production technology and how the Holland Board of Public Works is managing it. This tour has limited spots available; sign up soon.

The conference grand finale will include an exciting ignite session to provide ideas for you economic development strategy with key local, state and federal leaders. You will have the opportunity for one-on-one conversations to extend your network and gain valuable connections that will contribute to becoming a more effective economic development leader in your community.

To find out more details about the tours, read here. To register and find out more about the conference visit here.

Authored by MEDA’s 2017 Annual Meeting Committee Chair: Jennifer Owens, President, Lakeshore Advantage


The Spring Toolbox, Tuesday, May 16th – A Look Ahead

17 Spring Toolbox Postcard for RoblyIn economic development sharing best practices and growing good relationships is imperative to being successful. I have enjoyed volunteering on the Education Committee to develop The Spring Economic Development Toolbox and co-chairing this year with Kimberly Marrone, Economic Development and Communications Director, City of Oak Park.

Some of the topics that will be covered:

  • Understanding the Implications of Federal Foreign Policy Changes

What will it mean for trade in a major manufacturing state? How will it impact our state’s relationships with foreign companies? Will the dynamics of foreign workers shift? And what will the impact be on our university’s admissions of international students and the local economies of communities they reside in?

  • Opportunity for All: Strategies for Inclusive Economic Development

Although residents in many communities are thriving, there are those who are experiencing declining incomes, low or no participation in the labor force, and living in increasingly concentrated poverty. Expanding economic opportunity for these residents impacts a region’s ability to grow its economy and be the best it can be. A review of a paper presented at IEDC explores the issue of economic opportunity from a developer’s perspective, and highlights best practices from nine case studies.

  • Streamlining the Development Process: Applying One Stop Ready Principles in Local Communities

One Stop Ready is Oakland County’s economic development program to provide local communities with the resources, tools and trainings needed to capitalize on local strengths, improve processes, and make its vision a reality. A review of best practices and of the Benchmark Self-Evaluation Tool.

  • Educational Attainment as an Economic Driver for States, Regions, and Communities

How the result of this co-learning project is making an impact and why economic developers should pay close attention to credentials.

Visit to view the full agenda and to register.

Author: Maria Nevai, Michigan Economic Developers Association Education Committee Co-Chair, Vice President, The Opportunity Group Alliance – Capitol Area Opportunity Group and Principal/Consultant, Maria Nevai, LLC 


By Amy Clickner, MEDA President and CEO of Lake Superior Community Partnershipios9-mail-app-icon-left-wrap

Relationships are critical to being successful in economic development. Whether it is with your business client, a prospect, legislators, your colleagues, coworkers or any stakeholder … the stronger the relationship, the smoother the process.

In order to build and strengthen these relationships, we must effectively communicate with each stakeholder group. So in the age of technology, where abbreviated responses and instant answers are required, how do make sure we as practitioners are communicating in a way that meets our relationship goals? With as many as three generations in the workplace, are we taking into consideration how each of our stakeholders best processes the information we provide?

In our office, we talk about this often and have created some basic guidelines to help use the appropriate method of communications. Below are some tips you may want to consider.

Most businesses utilize email, whether it is for communicating with clients, co-workers or both. It is a convenient way to pass along information, questions, documents, photos and more. While it is extremely convenient, it is not always the best form of communication.

When NOT to use email:

  • If you need an immediate answer, call, don’t email. Not everyone checks their email continuously throughout the day.
  • Avoid emailing to cancel last minute plans. Again, not everyone always has email access, speaking with them directly to ensure they received the message is important.
  • Do not send an email when discussing a complex, lengthy or confusing topic. It is best to call and explain and maybe follow up with an email summarizing afterward.
  • If you are sending an email to avoid having the conversation face-to-face, that is a sure sign that it is a message that should not be conveyed via email.

When utilizing email, especially in a professional setting, there is simple etiquette that should be followed. These guidelines can help keep your email organized and cut back on unnecessary messages.

  • The subject line should reflect what the email is actually about. If you’re starting a new “conversation” in an email or have more than one topic to discuss, start a new email with an appropriate subject line. This will help the receiver keep track of the information and be able to scan subject lines to refer back later.
  • “To” vs. “CC” vs. “BCC”
    • The recipients you include in the “To” line are the people you want to read the email and respond
    • The recipients included in the “CC” line are receiving the email as an FYI or to be kept in the loop and don’t need to take action
    • The recipients included in the “BCC” line are not visible to others. This should be used sparingly. “BCC” is a great way to protect the email addresses of those you’re emailing to or keep an email shorter if you’re sending to a very large group, but should not be used to secretly include someone on an email.
  • Reply vs. Reply All
    • Reply All when the conversation involves everyone
      • e. – A sends an email to B, C and D asking if someone can complete a project, C should reply all saying it is taken care of so A, B and D know it is done and can delete the email.
    • Reply when your answer only impacts the person sending the email
      • e. – A sends an email to B, C and D asking what everyone wants for lunch, C should reply only with their lunch order so they don’t clutter B and D’s email.
    • Reply with all of your thoughts in one email. Emails don’t need to be replied to within seconds of receiving, take some time to gather your thoughts so you can send your response all at once.
    • When responding to an email that is disconcerting or upsetting, do not hit send for at least an hour, re-read with a clear head and new perspective.
    • Read your email (including the email “To,” “CC” and “BCC” line and subject line) before you hit send. This is your last chance to correct mistakes and make sure you did not accidently include someone who should not be in the email.
    • Be professional! Use the person’s name, use proper grammar and punctuation and sign the email. Leave your texting abbreviations for communicating with your teen!

One last tip – if you work at a desk and have your email open all day, it can be tempting to click over every time you get that pop-up or hear that “ding.” The best thing to do is disable the pop-up and turn off the sound. This way you can schedule two or three times a day to follow-up on emails and you are not distracted from other work with each email that comes in. No one should expect an immediate reply to an email, if you reply within 24 hours that should be sufficient.

There are always exceptions to these “rules,” but they should help keep you organized, looking professional and the recipients of your email should appreciate your etiquette as well. This all goes a long way to building a positive relationship with all your stakeholders.

After 10 years….the MEDA Annual Conference says, HELLO DETROIT!

detroitIf you didn’t attend this year’s MEDA Annual Meeting in Downtown Detroit, you missed out! Detroit is on a comeback, driven in partnership by some of its large corporations and local businesses with a belief in the city’s future.

According to the Detroit Regional Chamber, there has been at least $3.4 billion in investment and development announced in the city, since 2013; including 125 new restaurants and retail establishments that have recently opened. Overall, there are 378 restaurants in the city, and residential rental units in both downtown and midtown Detroit were nearly 100% fully occupied between 2013 and 2014. During the MEDA tours, there was evidence of a lot of economic opportunity, showing people are coming into the city to work, live and play; creating a vibe that was infectious and inviting. To further accelerate the process of turning downtown Detroit into a live, work, play hub that can draw in people from the outskirts of the city and suburbs, the implementation of a light rail project known as the QLINE financed by the private sector, is expected to be operational Spring 2017.

Additionally, two recent big projects include Amazon‘s announcement last fall to unveil a new corporate office and technology hub in the City in 2016, and the new Nike retail store. What’s more, since 2009 nearly 227,000 private-sector jobs have been added through the end of 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The MEDA tours showcased how obvious Detroit has come in the past few years due to a coordinated development effort, largely led by the private sector. What’s important to understand is it wasn’t one building or so-called impact project this time around, unlike past efforts to revitalize the downtown. This time, it highlights a strategic approach involving many buildings with an intent to connect them with a network of public and semi-public spaces where everything works together to reveal the unique character of downtown Detroit and transform it.

If you haven’t been to downtown Detroit lately, I encourage you to come explore and experience a different Detroit…I know you will be pleasantly surprised!

Monique Holliday-Bettie, Economic Development Manger, DTE Energy is the MEDA Board Secretary in 2016.

Do you know your local economic development team?

Knowing and utilizing your local economic development team can be the boost needed to complete your projects.

Both community and local businesses play an important role in the quality of life offered in a particular area. When the well-being and quality of life for a community is combined with the support of businesses that create and/or retain local base jobs, the result is economic development. Economic development is multifaceted, and its success is driven by the combination of community and business development activities that affect and improve the community as a whole. The most successful examples take a team approach with many agencies and organizations working together to share expertise and resources.

The center of the economic development team is very often the local economic development organization (EDO). EDO’s can take on many shapes and sizes, but are primarily identified by their experience, expertise and contacts with the many agencies and organizations that support communities and businesses. One important area of expertise your local EDO provides is the ability to identify potential grant funding opportunities. These grant opportunities are often the most critical component to a project’s feasibility. Experienced EDO staff can provide grant application and administering support to see economic development projects through from concept to completion.

An example of a successful EDO in Northern Michigan is Michigan State University Extension partner, Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA). Established in 1984, NLEA has a long record of providing economic development support to a variety of both public and private organizations. There are numerous economic development organizations throughout the state of Michigan that can assist your community and business. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) hosts a comprehensive list of these organizations on their website.

Michigan State University Extension has had a unique relationship with the regional economic development organizationNorthern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) for more than 20 years. Recognizing the strength of combining resources, this partnership focuses on economic development, entrepreneurship growth and community infrastructure throughout a four-county region in the northwest Lower Peninsula, specifically Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet counties. As a result, the NLEA utilizes resources offered through MSU Extension as it provides leadership to state-wide programs sponsored by MSUExtension.”

Make your way to MEDA’s Annual Meeting!

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.

Rethinking Funding

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.

What is Economic Development, Exactly?

by Karl Dorshimer
Director, Business Development
Lansing Economic Area Partnership
Board Member, Michigan Economic Developers Association

Having been an Economic Developer for over 20 years, I still struggle sometimes to explain what Economic Development is. It has been even more difficult since the profession itself has been changing over time and broadening in scope. More recently, Economic Development, and by association Economic Developers, have encountered criticism questioning the legitimacy of what they do and whether it is really in the public’s best interest. Budget shortfalls and the misunderstanding of how Economic Development Incentives work have led to attempts to cut funding for Economic Development Programs.

MEDA and the MEDA Advocacy Committee have stepped up to define and defend the field and the good work that Economic Development Professionals do throughout Michigan. MEDA is unified in describing Economic Development as attracting and growing businesses, creating and retaining jobs, and making our communities a better place to live. In a nutshell Economic Development creates prosperity for the citizens of our communities. Furthermore, Economic Developers are professionals within a community that use various tools to stimulate economic growth while maximizing the best interests of the entire community and finding mutually beneficial solutions for all parties concerned. Economic Developers help local officials and businesses to work together for community progress.

Attracting and growing businesses strengthens our economy providing locally produced goods and services. Strong businesses pay taxes that go for vital services such as schools, roads, fire and police. Businesses also provide good jobs that put money in people’s pockets and allow for a higher quality of life. Economic Development has a major impact on the places where we live, work and play. Putting vacant or abandoned buildings and land back into productive use is a major function of economic development. This helps keep businesses located in urban areas where sewer, water and other services are already present.

Economic development retains and attracts talented people. Communities that provide quality jobs and great places to live and work are a magnet for folks of all ages. As a result, these places have a strong future. Economic development also fosters the entrepreneurial spirit that resides in our creative and ambitious citizens. By providing access to ideas, investment and expert advice new companies can be created to help assure Michigan’s economy stays innovative and diverse.

So the next time that you have the opportunity to speak up on behalf of Economic Development or Economic Developers, go ahead and jump into the conversation with the confidence that investing in economic development is good for everyone.

Keeping up with the Capitol – The Importance of Knowing Legislation


An important strategy in economic development surrounds the need to have a robust legislative agenda and the relationships required to move that agenda forward.  In particular, we need to be the eyes and ears for small businesses who typically do not have their own government relations staff while supporting the efforts of larger businesses and municipalities that fall within our policy agenda.

In its simplest form, our legislative priorities fall under three main categories:

  • Business Climate
  • Infrastructure
  • Preschool – 20 Education

For example, there is a Dark Store Tax Issue that the County of Marquette has been working diligently to get corrected.  This falls under the “business climate” category because it is important that taxes be fair and consistent for all businesses, and we continue to support this effort.

Our partners are an important part of our strategy as well.  When there is a legislative policy issue that needs to be addressed, oftentimes we engage our partners through an “Action Alert” so they have all of the information at their fingertips to weigh in with the appropriate legislator(s) or departments.  This helps to elevate the support or opposition of an issue in short order.

Have you heard about the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed changes to overtime exemption regulations?  Do you know how they may affect your business, non-profit or governmental bottom line?

On July 6, 2015 the U.S. DOL issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would change the regulations that exempt administrative, executive and professionals from the Fair Labor Standards minimum wage and overtime requirements which are often times referred to as the “white collar” exemptions.

The proposed rules would change the current salary threshold for employees currently exempt from overtime requirements from $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $921 per week ($47,892).  That is over a 100% increase!  The threshold does not take into account whether your business is in a metropolitan or rural area, where in the country it is or its size.  Increase is across the board.

The DOL accepted comments on the proposed rule until September 4th of last year.  Remember, however, that this change is coming from the DOL and is not legislation that our elected officials will vote on.

Based on a recent conference put on by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we expect a final decision on the proposed changes to come this fall with compliance expected within 60 days of their decision.  So, please, take time to review your wage and hour practices, contact your financial advisor to determine how many of your employees may be subject to the new dollar threshold and be prepared to either increase your exempt employee’s base salary, begin paying overtime or make other appropriate adjustments.

Editor’s note: MEDA Members have access to weekly legislative updates through our weekly newsletter and updates on our website! Click here for this week’s legislation.


Amy Clickner is the CEO of the Lake Superior Community Partnership. She can be reached at

Starting your own business? Don’t skip a structured business plan

Clickner, Amy

Amy Clickner, CEO of Lake Superior Community Partnership

If you were to ask me what question I get asked most often by people who are looking to start their own business it would undoubtedly be; “Do I really need a business plan?”  My response is simple, if you want to succeed, yes, you do need a business plan.  Just like you wouldn’t build a house without plans or bake a cake without a recipe, you need to have plan for what your new venture will look like and how it will be funded.

With all of that being said, there are no hard and fast rules of what a business plan has to be or what it has to look like.  We have several guides at the Lake Superior Partnership Office and one of our business development representatives would be happy to sit down with you and go through them and find one that suits your personal style.  There are several things that a business plan needs to have:

  • An overview of your company
  • How you plan to structure it (a sole proprietor, LLC, Incorporation?)
  • Financials and Projections
  • Market Analysis
  • Industry Analysis
  • Competition
  • Human Resources Plan
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy
  • Management Plan
  • Exit Strategy

Most people take a look at that list and are turned off by it.  What does it mean?  Where am I supposed to get this stuff from?  Believe it or not, most of it you already know.  You know what you want your company to be, how you want it to run, what your financial situation is and what the day to day operations are going to look like.  Getting those out of your head and down on paper is an enormous first step.  From there, experts at the LSCP or SBDC can help you with the research and financial projections and the final packaging if you need to submit your business plan to a lender for financing.

Having a business plan and financial projections prepared for a lender is one reason that it is necessary to create one, but you may think that if you’re self-financing you can skip the process all together.  I don’t recommend it.  One of the most beneficial part of the planning process is that it help you work out the kinks in your plan and refine your ideas and budget.  In some cases after going through the planning process, people find that their business won’t be profitable and decide not to move forward, other times, they refine their ideas, sometimes the plan is just  a confirmation of what they already knew and no adjustments need to be made (this is extremely rare).

Owning your own business will be one of the most difficult and rewarding things that you will ever do, don’t shortchange yourself at the beginning by neglecting to prepare a plan.

Authored by: Amy Clickner, CEcD, CFRM, the CEO of Lake Superior Community Partnership. Amy is the Vice President of the Michigan Economic Developers Association.

MEDA’s Focus for 2016

It is an honor and privilege to serve as the 2016 MEDA Board of Directors President. As a member of this professional organizationCarroll, Stephanie for over ten years, I am grateful for this opportunity to represent all members of MEDA across the state of Michigan. I value the trust you have placed in me and will work hard to maintain that trust.

I feel very fortunate to work with such a group of outstanding individuals who make up our Board of Directors. Thank you to our 2015 President, Kara Wood, for her leadership over the past year. I would also like to thank Michelle Aniol and Jennifer Owens for their service to the Board. We welcome new Board Member Kimberly Marrone, from the City of Oak Park to the Board as a Member at Large. Finally, it’s always important to have people you can count on. I’d like to recognize John Avery and Cassandra Jorae for their hard work and dedication to the organization. Thank you for the fantastic job you do every day.

The Board of Directors will continue to focus on our most critical and important opportunity; our members. Member engagement and creating more value for MEDA members is a top priority for the Board. Your participation in MEDA is critical and essential to the overall success of our organization. We are looking forward to developing new programs and listening to you, our members. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be engaged in order to identify opportunities in our profession. We need to challenge ourselves and our approaches to Economic Development. I encourage you to have open dialogue with Board members. Your input and support are needed for the overall continued success of MEDA.

Day in and day out, we are all working to bring the Michigan economy back from the economic decline for which we all experienced. By supporting business growth and development, encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation, promoting foreign and domestic investment in our communities, and championing the cause of building strong communities through the nurturing of a robust economy, MEDA can play an important role in Michigan’s economic development strategy.

In addition to the other great programs we have throughout the year, our Annual Meeting will be held in Detroit from August 23-26th at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. The planning committee is hard at work on the content and you will be seeing information come out in the next few months about out annual event. You won’t want to miss it.

Thank you and cheers to 2016!

Best Regards,

Authored By: Stephanie Carroll, Manager, Business Development & Community Relations, City of Auburn Hills. Stephanie is MEDA Board President for 2016.