Strategic Plan Still Sitting on the Shelf?

NLEA Team took part in Strategic Doing Workshop hosted by MSU Extension which taught the practice of collaborative leadership to move action items forward.

Like many organizational planning sessions, a group is hired to come in and help write a strategic plan and after hours of work the question still remains, “how do we implement this?” Oftentimes a plan either doesn’t have a sense of purpose, or it wasn’t specific enough for anyone to carry out.

To add to this lack of purpose, meetings are often ineffective: 73 percent of employees do other work in meetings and 75 percent of individuals have no formal training to run a meeting.

The problem is that our meetings and collaborative groups today are no longer hierarchical, chain-of-command type settings, and often there is nothing in place to make sure group members are accountable for work they do or don’t do. “Instead of our old habits of command and control, we have to figure out how to align and activate a network of people and organizations;” this is the concept behind Strategic Doing.

At its root, Strategic Doing can propel a small, focused group to bring something to the table and each have a role in making a project happen. With 10 simple rules, your meetings and plans can be transformed:

  1. Create and maintain a safe space for deep, focused conversations. Identify the core group of 6 action oriented individuals and meet in a space that will foster discussion.
  2. Frame conversation around appreciative question. Positive problem solving. Imagine if your community could be X? What would that look like?
  3. Uncover hidden assets among the group. Have everyone share what they bring to the table, strengths, connections, and project ideas.
  4. Link and leverage your assets to create new opportunities. You may notice aligned interests or project ideas forming, or discover contacts that could help make projects possible. Combine the group assets and you can move a project forward easier.
  5. Rank all your opportunities to find your “Big Easy.” This is the idea which will impact the most people in your community, and is relatively easy to implement. Rank the ease and impact of the projects on your list. First, each person evaluates the potential impact if it were completely successful with 5 being high and 1 being low. Next, each person evaluates how easy or difficult it would be with 5 being easy and 1 being difficult. Add everyone’s numbers then total impact and ease scores to find your “Big Easy.”
  6. Convert your “Big Easy” into an outcome with measurable characteristics. What would people see, how would they feel, and how would their lives be different?
  7. Define at least one Pathfinder Project with guideposts. This is your pilot project to help you test some assumptions that could be completed within approximately 3 to 6 months. (Could be phase one of your project to create an initial buzz)
  8. Draft an action plan with everyone taking a small step. What will each member in the group do in the next 30 days? Everyone must contribute at least an hour of their time to a part of the project, and document their contribution to the group.
  9. Set a 30/30 meeting to review progress. What has been done in the last 30 days, and what needs to happen in the next 30?
  10. Nudge, connect, and promote relentlessly to build your new habits of collaboration. Keep each other accountable and get to work.

Authored By: Andy Hayes, President, Northern Lakes Economic Alliance. Andy is a long-time member of MEDA.

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Energy Opportunities in Michigan

alternative-alternative-energy-clean-356049Every so often, there is a change in government policy that creates opportunities for jobs and new investment in our communities. One of our roles in economic development is to help our local government leaders learn about these opportunities and educate themselves as much as possible to make informed decisions. We have one such opportunity in front of us today.

The state of Michigan established a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), requiring that the state’s 84 electric providers in Michigan secure 10% of their energy from renewable sources by 2015. In 2016, the State of Michigan increased its renewable portfolio standards to 15% by 2021.

In addition, last month, Consumers Energy announced it had filed a plan with the MPSC that outlined a path to using zero coal, while ensuring affordable and reliable energy for Michigan families and businesses. Under the plan, the company would increase renewable energy from 11% today to 37% by 2030. The company has a goal of reducing its carbon emissions and eliminating the use of coal to generate electricity by 2040. The company proposes to add 550 MW of wind to help them reach Michigan’s goal of 15% by 2021. They also expect to add 5,000 MW of solar energy with ramp-up throughout the 2020’s.

DTE Energy is also planning to reduce its carbon footprint and incorporate substantially more renewable and cleaner sources of energy into its generation mix. In 2017, DTE announced a broad sustainability initiative to reduce the company’s carbon emissions by more than 80 percent while continuing to provide reliable and affordable power to its 2.2 million customers. DTE will achieve this reduction by incorporating substantially more renewable energy, eliminating coal, using low emission natural gas, continuing to operate its zero-emission Fermi 2 nuclear power plant, and improving options for customers to save energy and reduce bills. Recently, DTE filed plans to double its renewable energy capacity by 2022, adding another 1,000 MW of wind and solar and driving investment of more than $1.7 billion in Michigan’s energy sector.

What can we do to help our communities become prepared for renewable energy?

During the initial RPS period, a majority of wind-generated projects were developed in areas such as Michigan’s Thumb and Gratiot County among others. With the increase in the RPS and the recently released goals of our largest utilities, we anticipate that there may be an opportunity for additional wind and solar projects.

In our area, developers are already contacting landowners to secure sites for solar and wind projects. Local government officials are considering amendments to their master plans to address renewable energy production. They are also looking at developing zoning ordinances that align with the community’s plan for renewable energy production.

As economic developers, we may want to assist our local government officials by providing educational opportunities related to solar and wind energy. MSU Extension recently provided an excellent workshop called, “Shining a Light on Agricultural Solar Energy Development”, which provided great information for property owners considering solar development.

Webinars

Collaborating with MSU Extension and local government associations to develop a similar workshop on wind energy would be of great benefit to our local government officials trying to address these opportunities and challenges; some for the first time. Potential topics could include an overview of the industry and siting wind turbines and their operational characteristics. You may also want to invite an official from one of the Thumb or Gratiot Communities to share their experience with wind development. As the local economic developer, you may want to prepare an economic impact analysis to show the property tax increase provided by a wind energy project.

At the end of the day, it is a local government decision and our role is to ensure that these public officials are able to make well-informed decisions for the economic betterment of their communities.

Authored by: JoAnn Crary, CEcD, President, Saginaw Future, Inc. JoAnn is a long-time member of MEDA and our 2018 Committee Chair.

NOTE: For more information on the webinars mentioned, you can contact M. Charles Gould, Agricultural Bioenergy and Energy Conservation Educator, Michigan State University Extension, PH: 616-994-4547, gouldm@anr.msu.edu.

public policy (noun): government policies that affect the whole population

Public policy is not something everyone thinks about but is very important in how our society is managed. The Center for Civic Education defines specific attributes of public policy that help to expand on the above basic definition:

  • Policy is made in response to some sort of issue or problem that requires attention. Policy is what the government chooses to do (actual) or not do (implied) about a particular issue or problem.
  • Policy might take the form of law, or regulation, or the set of all the laws and regulations that govern a particular issue or problem.
  • Policy is made on behalf of the “public.”
  • Policy is oriented toward a goal or desired state, such as the solution of a problem.
  • Policy is ultimately made by governments, even if the ideas come from outside government or through the interaction of government and the public.
  • Policymaking is part of an ongoing process that does not always have a clear beginning or end, since decisions about who will benefit from policies and who will bear any burden resulting from the policy are continually reassessed, revisited and revised.

You can clearly see that a key ingredient for good public policy is the “public” part. That is you and me. When we vote, we are making a choice of individuals we trust to work through the policy process, often referred to as sausage making, with our best interests in mind.

But there are additional ways we can participate. When there is a problem or issue that needs to be addressed, do you reach out to policy makers and let them know how you feel? What you believe is the right thing to do? Do you send a letter/note, make a call or attend a town hall meeting to share your support or opposition?

These are a variety of ways that you can communicate effectively with those in positions to shape public policy, and they want to hear from you. This is why the Marquette County Ambassadors have focused, for decades, on building strong relationships with our elected officials and engaging in policy creation and debate of issues affecting our community.

The Marquette County Ambassadors are a privately funded group of business, education, community and government leaders from across Marquette County whose mission it is to “promote and foster economic vitality throughout Marquette County and the Upper Peninsula, to carry the story of the Marquette County area to others, and salute those who deserve recognition.”

For decades the Marquette County Ambassadors have made trips to Lansing to meet with legislators and state department personnel. The purpose of the trip is threefold: to inform our legislators of relevant issues affecting Marquette County and the Upper Peninsula, to hear their perspectives on activities related to state government, and to share with them our position on critical issues related to the Upper Peninsula. This year we were proud to have partners from Baraga and Dickinson counties join us.

The Ambassadors researched and produced position papers in four major areas:

  • Economic Development
  • Education
  • Local Government
  • Infrastructure

Many, if not all, of the issues raised or initiatives supported are not specific to Marquette County, but rather the Upper Peninsula as a whole. Regional cooperation continues to play a vital role in the betterment of the Upper Peninsula and U.P. communities have a long history of working together. Our legislators appreciate the regional collaboration and single voice on issues they are pursuing.

So at the end of the day, if we want public policy to truly address the needs and concerns of the public, then we “the public” need to engage. For issues and legislation we are watching, hop on to our website at www.marquette.org.

Authored By: Amy Clickner, CEcD, CFRM, Chief Executive Officer, Lake Superior Community Partnership. Amy is a Member at Large on MEDA’s Board of Directors.

 

How Facebook Can Be An Economic Developer’s Best Friend

Picture2As we all know, social media is extremely powerful, and can be used for both very good (and very bad) purposes. I must say that I resisted it for many years, and only relented when my Vice President Brent Jones recommended we create a Facebook page to promote our organization (the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership)’s activities. In order to get followers, I found it best to create my own personal page, add friends, and then recommended they follow us. Little did I know that what began as a few posts here and there would turn into one of our most important communication tools, directly reaching over 2,300 friends. My goal for this month’s MEDA blog is to give you a few thoughts on how you can utilize your Facebook successfully in your own economic development efforts.

Communicating Value
One of the biggest challenges economic developers face is demonstrating value to their stakeholders (board members, funders, government and business leaders, public at large). You not only have to do good work, but also have to communicate it. A constant flow of quick stories about what you do helps build an impression over time that you are tirelessly striving to improve your local economy, which brings you lots of credibility. It also creates a more positive perception of your community in general, which can in turn increase resident and existing business confidence in the area, and also serve as a resource to attract new investment.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
This is something that I didn’t expect when I started, but quickly found out that Facebook is the single most impactful tool to connect people with jobs. As we all know, the communication of employment opportunities has become more fragmented (you no longer just look in the help wanted section of the newspaper). With pretty much everyone on Facebook, and the ability to share posts with your network, the exposure of job postings mushrooms very quickly to reach more people than any other form of media. Given the tight labor market, we are finding it effective right now in engaging with our commuter population (70% of our residents leave the county for work every day), who are not actively looking for a job but are intrigued about the possibility of finding something closer to home (particularly when facing this winter weather).

Balance The Personal With The Professional
This one is tricky, and probably the biggest reason why some of my peers don’t want to mix the two. Personally, I think it is valuable for people to see that you are not only passionate and driven with your career, but can also have fun too (like me with University of Michigan athletics – Go Blue!). That being said, I try very hard to avoid anything controversial that doesn’t relate directly to my job. I also strive to ensure pretty much everything has a positive, uplifting tone to it (except when my Wolverines lose L).

If you would like to discuss further, feel free to reach out to me on Facebook!

 

Justin Horvath, CEcD
President/CEO
Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership
Ph: (989) 725-9241
Email: jhorvath@sedpweb.org
Web: http://sedpweb.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sedpweb

Justin is the 2018 Board Treasurer for the Michigan Economic Developers Association.

Who Are You? A DNA Test for Municipalities

Question MarkWe hear a lot today about ancestry testing and finding out about our heritage. Many of us want to know “who we really are.” While these tests can be fun, they can also tell us a lot about ourselves that we thought we knew but had all wrong. For instance, we may know that our ancestors emigrated from a specific country, and claim that as our heritage, but with the help of these tests, we may learn that said ancestor only briefly lived in the “country of origin” and our actual roots lie elsewhere. The test may not change some of the facts we already know; it just gave us a different way to look at them.

Today I want to talk about a DNA test for municipal units – NAICS. The North American Industry Classification System is a great way to take a new look at your community. Just like the DNA tests described above, it can tell you so much on many different levels. At the broadest level, the two digit code, you can learn what industries in general are represented in your community. You may ask, “Why is this important? I know my companies and what industries they are in” – but do you? You may have a broad thought in your head such as automotive or even supplier; but did you know that there is no category “automotive” in NAICS? Did you know that what you considered an automotive supplier could be classified as a wholesaler? This is a new way of understanding your business community and the types of companies who may find your community attractive. Now you have opened a potential pathway to new markets and opportunities to improve your tax base.

Digging deeper into the code at the three digit level allows you to get a little more specific and go from retail trade to motor parts supplier. At the four digit level, you can find that “automotive” label, but it won’t be stand alone. It will come with something like automotive parts dealer. You can get a list of NAICS classifications for your community through a database such as Hoovers. Your local librarian should be able to help you with that effort if you do not already subscribe to one.

I encourage you to take the leap and find out “who you are” with your NAICS test.

Authored by Khalfani Stephens, Director of Economic Development, City of Farmington Hills, and 2018 MEDA Board Vice President.

Economic Development is Community Development

Times are good for most people right now with memories of the great recession fading fast, but for economic developers, today is the time to “make hay while the sun shines”.

Good times have their own set of challenges, but they also provide great opportunities.   The first is that of workforce development. I remember not too many years ago when the rallying cry was “Workforce Development is Economic Development”. While it still rings true today, and there are good jobs being created in most communities, employers are having difficulty filling them and retaining workers. This is a complex issue that involves wage rates, education, skills, mobility of workers, lifestyle choices, costs of living, and many more factors. Economic developers need to work with employers and other organizations to create holistic and custom solutions that allow local people to move up the economic ladder into these higher paying jobs.

buildings-set_23-2147505271Additionally, an improving economy is creating labor shortages in the construction industry and a high demand for construction materials. This, along with rising interest rates, is pushing development costs upward. These higher costs lead to project financing gaps, which causes the private sector to ask communities for economic development.

But, in these good times, should communities agree to approve economic incentives? The answer is yes, but only if it is in the best interest of the community by taking advantage of the today’s strong economy to forge a better future for everyone. Most communities are no longer in a state of desperation where generous incentives are necessary just to attract private investment of any kind. Instead, Economic Developers can now seek to facilitate development agreements between communities, businesses, and developers that share the costs and benefits of development. Jobs, income, investment, tax revenue, business spending, infrastructure, education, training, etc., all are part of the mix and should be considered in making public decisions to approve private development incentives.

Now is the best time to for Economic Development Professionals to work with communities and businesses to demonstrate to all that Economic Development is Community Development.

Authored by: Karl Dorshimer, CEcD, EDFP, Director of Economic Development, Lansing Economic Area Partnership, and 2017 MEDA Board Treasurer

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.

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.

Holland Michigan: Beyond the MEDA Annual Meeting

holland tulips In January when the committee began planning for the MEDA Annual Meeting, our common goal was to ensure a meeting platform that fostered connection and relationship building. It was my pleasure to chair a committee with so many engaged and hard-working members who understand that successful economic development professionals seek peer connections and industry leaders to learn valuable information on how to build a strong organization and community. This conference will allow you to Connect with other economic development leaders from throughout the state.

Our community is excited to host this conference in Holland; a city known for its tulips, state and county parks, and voted the #1 small city to start a business by Wallethub.com two years in a row. As the conference finishes around noon on Friday, I would invite you to extend your stay through weekend. Go from economic development professional to tourist in one of the best beach towns in the country. Stay through the weekend and bring your family to enjoy:

  • Vibrant arts and culture scene

Musicians, caricature artists, face painters, jugglers, magicians and even aerial acrobats are all a part of the street performer series each Thursday night, right downtown. At the edge of the town is the vast Windmill Island Gardens where you can tour a replica of the 14th century Wayside Inn and see the antique Dutch carousel which features hand-carved and painted wooden horses. You can find all about downtown Holland here. The farmers market at the end of 8th Street is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and reflects the agricultural abundance in our region and ethnic diversity of our residents.

  • Microbreweries and distilleries

New HollandCoppercraftBig LakeMacatawa Ale. Our alluring breweries expertly cater to distinguishing palates and some serve options only found in West Michigan.

  • Parks and beaches

Paddleboarding. Sand castle building. Sunset viewing. Sun bathing. Lake Michigan beckons with each wave and calms the soul. Sneak away to one of our state or county parks to refresh your soul and spend time with those you love. The new playground at Holland State Park was funded by the MEDC’s Patroncity program. You can find the complete list of county parks to visit here.

The MEDA annual meeting will be content- and connection-rich. Once you are done learning, go ahead relax and explore. For more information about the Holland region, click here.

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

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