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.

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Don’t be an Average Economic Developer, be a MEDA Member!

As community leaders, we are asked to be members of many different groups – professional organizations, fraternal orders, chambers of commerce and more. Each of these groups brings different benefits. Some provide networking opportunities, discounts, others provide easy access to a wide array of knowledge that would otherwise require hours of research.

726015D4-DEF2-43FE-80F3-8BD081DBCE4AThe Michigan Economic Developers Association (MEDA) provides all of this, and more! MEDA hosts three annual training seminars that keep Economic Development professionals at the top of their game. The Spring and Fall Toolbox seminars are excellent opportunities to learn about what is going on across the state and nation in economic development. Experts in different areas of practice lead deep dives and robust discussions of the subject matter to ensure that participants go back to their home community with knowledge that can be implemented right away.

MEDA’s Annual Meeting is two and a half days of knowledge and networking bliss.  Nationally relevant speakers, topics that have been vetted by members, and free evenings for meeting with colleagues from around the region are just a few of the many reasons that attending the Annual Meeting is an absolute must. Additionally, these events provide continuing education credits for nationally-recognized certifications from as The National Development Council (NDC) and The International Economic DeveNew Members 1lopment Council (IEDC).

Of course you do not have to be a member of MEDA to participate, but if you are planning on attending each event, then your membership discount would cover the cost of joining! Additionally, you would get the members’ only benefit of being able to anonymously (or not) poll fellow members about any topic in municipal management/economic development to help move your community forward. This is only the tip of the iceberg; check out www.medaweb.org for more awesome events and benefits.

Still not convinced of the benefits of membership? Consider this – MEDA is currently in the process of offering all of the courses needed to obtain the Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) certification through the IEDC. Courses are normally held in Lansing and MEDA members get a discount – convenient and economical!

If you’re not currently taking advantage of MEDA benefits, then take a second look, grab your discounts, get connected with colleagues, and use MEDA to help research your next project.

Authored by MEDA 2017 Board Secretary Khalfani Stephens, CEcD, EDFP, Director of Economic Development, City of Farmington Hills.

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.

Go For It!

Raised HandsEver think about joining a MEDA committee or running for the Board? And your next thought is probably “What am I thinking? Stop me before I volunteer again!” That’s normal. Everybody has plenty of work to do already. But I’d recommend doing it anyway. There is a lot to be gained on a personal level as well as for the good of the organization.

I’m about to rotate off of 6 years on the MEDA Board of Directors, and I have no clue how many years on the Education Committee.

What did that time mean to me?

  • Working with people from all over the state, which was a real education in different perspectives and issues.
  • Broadening my network of professional contacts
  • Educating our membership on my organization’s economic development efforts
  • Influencing the direction of a statewide organization
  • Working with some amazingly talented people

What is really unique about volunteering for MEDA is the professional support and attention to detail. John & Cassandra do the overwhelming majority of the legwork when the meeting is over. You will not walk out of a MEDA Committee or Board meeting with a bigger laundry list of work to do! Can’t beat that!

Some of you may be thinking, if it’s so great, why is she rotating off the Board? A fair question! Organizations need fresh blood – new ideas, new thinking. So, if you are at all interested, my advice is “Go for it!”

Authored by: Peggy Black, Principal Account Manager, DTE Energy. Peggy Black spent six years on MEDA’s Board of Directors and two of those years as President.

MEDA Members: View MEDA’s Active Committees and email cjorae@medaweb.org to let her know where you want to participate!

Supporting Entrepreneurs Is Our Economic Development Strategy

Support for entrepreneurs and small business is an important economic development strategy. “Small businesses continue to spur U.S. job growth. Companies with fewer than 50 employees created 45 percent of the 188,000 new jobs in June,” recently released in the ADP National Employment Report. In Meridian Township, our Economic Development Corporation Board has adopted a mission to include entrepreneurship. Our Mission is to “Set the standard in creating an entrepreneurial culture; be the example for revitalization of our business districts and be the leaders in building sustainable public/private partnerships.”

One of our most recent priorities was to find a way to assist entrepreneurs and small business owners within our township with access to capital. We partnered with The Entrepreneur Institute in Lansing to provide microloans for any eligible business owner in Meridian Township. The benefit of forming this partnership is two-fold. One, it allows us a means in which to provide small microloans to our business community and two, we do not have to vet and manage the loans. We leave that process to the experts at The Entrepreneur Institute.

Secondly, Meridian Township is home to The MARC, a new business support center. The MARC is a collaboration and partnership between the Meridian Area Business Association and the Meridian Township Economic Development Corporation with several additional partners and corporate sponsors. It is a direct outcome of Meridian Township’s participation in the pilot program of Michigan State University’s Creating Entrepreneurial Communities Project in 2007. The MARC team formed partnerships early on with our local library and with Michigan Small Business Development and Technology Center to offer resources and confidential business counseling. The MARC was originally housed at the Okemos Library but as of February 2013 The MARC leases a township owned building in our Okemos Downtown Development Authority District. Entrepreneurs and business owners throughout the Greater Lansing region can access resources and support through The MARC.

The MARC team very deliberately reached out to other incubators and support organizations in the region when planning the use of the space and the educational programs. The team was dedicated to not duplicating but rather complementing services within our region. For instance, The MARC is ideal for those businesses ready to transition from incubators and home offices to a more visible work environment. At The MARC, an entrepreneur can utilize work space on a day pass basis, a month-to-month basis, or an annual basis. The annual memberships offer mail service and a one-year membership to the Meridian Area Business Association. The premier annual membership also includes a designated cubicle space. The MARC also has a large meeting space that can accommodate seminars and workshops for 30 – 40 attendees comfortably.

We believe it is critical to assist our entrepreneurs and business owners in the navigation of all the diverse support services within our region. We work hard at establishing and growing strong relationships with our regional partners. Our regional economic development organization, Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), continues to play a vital role in creating a regional network of incubators which includes The MARC and in developing other programs and services that offer entrepreneurial support. The MARC provides educational programming on-site as well as promotes events and programs of other area organizations. The Meridian Township EDC Board is very grateful that we have such tremendous resources in our area to assist us in our mission to build an entrepreneurial community.

The Meridian Township Board has made economic development one of their top priorities. Township staff is working closely with our EDC Board to improve the process of starting and expanding businesses within our township. We are hearing more positive feedback from business owners opening businesses in our community and the number of new businesses opening is increasing. Retention visits has also been given priority and this too is opening the lines of communication with our business community.

The Meridian Township EDC Board is optimistic in the changes we see taking place both within our local community and within our Greater Lansing region. By putting a focus on the needs of our entrepreneurs and business owners we come to better understand how we can work together to meet those needs. Entrepreneurs at all stages of businesses need resources and support although those needs may change throughout the life of the business. One of our key roles as economic development professionals is to assist businesses in making the appropriate connections for their ultimate success. In my experience, building a strong sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem that includes both resources and good policy is one strategy in our toolbox we should not overlook.

Authored by: Marsha Madle, CBSP, Meridian Township Economic Development Corporation Board Chair. Marsha serves as a Member at Large on MEDA’s Board of Directors