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2008 Regional Prosperity Initiative Grants: A Closer Look

PAL has developed Six Pillars for Prosperity, an agenda to reinvent Michigan as a global economic player. Individual local units of government do not have the scope or means to tackle these issues. Many could be addressed at the state level, but political leadership is hampered by the state’s ongoing economic malaise and by term limits. PAL believes that the best opportunity for change in Michigan is at the regional level, where economic, environmental, and social concerns converge. Regions are sizeable enough to advance the Six Pillars for Prosperity agenda and are a more potent source of leadership.

To strengthen the voice of regions in Michigan, PAL launched its Regional Prosperity Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to foster multi-sector and multi-jurisdictional collaboration at the regional level as a means for advancing economic, social, and environmental progress in Michigan. Twenty-five grant proposals were received in May, and reviewed by the PAL Leadership Council. By September, nine regional partnerships received funding for their proposals.

“It is clear that the future of a prosperous Michigan rests in cohesive and forward-looking regions,” said Jim Barrett, past president of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and one of the seven members of the PAL Leadership Council. “The Council is frankly excited by the prospects for success of these nine grantees. People and Land represents multiple sectors of the Michigan economy, and we believe that supporting regional collaborations will influence decisions about Michigan’s prosperity by applying land-related strategies that include economic, environmental, and social innovation.” The grantees for this initiative are at various stages in co-creating successful regional collaborations – some are relatively new, while others have been developing their partnerships for nearly 20 years.

Developing the D

Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB)

Under the banner of “Developing the D,” the Tourism and Economic Development Council of the DCVB is developing a Destination Districts initiative. The project expects to create urban destinations that provide opportunities and experiences that attract and retain residents, visitors, and investment by building the uniqueness of a series of destination districts within the Detroit metro area. It will foster the capacity of local leaders to work with each other on a district or sub-regional basis and also on region-wide basis by creating strategies to link districts. Stage One will be to identify and convene representative groups from each district. In Stage Two, groups will determined what they need to do to become an attractive destination and determine ways they are linked as a region. The Michigan Suburbs Alliance (MSA) will support with recruitment/engagement of city leaders and millennials. In Stage Three, the groups will identify what needs to be done (policy, financial, marketing, etc.) to support initiatives each has identified. Policies that need the support of the entire region will be supported by the Millennial Mayors Congress developed by MSA that will convene a collaborative of 50 communities from the region.

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Farm to School Program

Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP)

A nonprofit regional collaboration of urban and rural community and business leaders, FSEP provides research, education and outreach to support agricultural development opportunities, sustainable communities and healthy local economies within the five counties of Jackson, Lenawee, Monroe, Washtenaw, and Wayne. With the assistance of PAL, FSEP plans to expand a Farm to School Program into Wayne County, to increase student consumption of health local foods; increase student knowledge of the food system; demonstrate how local food can mitigate the current food system’s negative social, economic and environmental impacts; provide increased business opportunities for struggling local farmers; and engage community partners in schools with projects demonstrating the importance of local food. FSEP will work closely food distributors to ensure willingness to accommodate provision of local food, and with food service personnel in order to measure consumption partners and farm products purchased.

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Furthering Regional Collaboration in West Michigan

West Michigan Strategic Alliance (WMSA)

WMSA’s project is designed to enhance this mature organization on several fronts, building on its experience of leading collaboration in West Michigan. 1) To strengthen its collaborative process, WMSA will conduct a statistically valid survey of West Michigan voters, as well as interested stakeholders, in the 8 county area to gauge the effectiveness and value of its work. 2) Utilizing PAL expertise, WMSA will enhance the diversity and sustainability of its funding sources. 3) It will improve its performance measurement processes, to be reported out in its 15 indicators of Quality of Life for the April 2009 Vital Signs publication to the region. 4) As a critical piece of its Green Infrastructure effort, WMSA will create a “Tool Shed” of the most useful land use planning tools. Distribution and promotion to local decision makers at the local, county and township level will take the form of onsite and Web-based training, and both content and delivery will align with the Land Policy Institute’s Citizen Planner Program.

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Grand Vision to Grand Action

Rotary Camps and Services
Through January 2009, project leaders will focus on successfully completing a Grand Vision Decision process, a public outreach campaign seeking the active participating of more than 15,000 regional residents in selecting a regional growth strategy. The project will employ a promotional effort to build awareness of the regional opportunity around the Grand Vision through video, Web-based interactivity, events and marketing. In the process, Grand Vision will identify and build regional leaders, a network of collaboration to implement the recommendations of the citizen-selected strategy. Upon completion of the Grand Vision Decision process, community leaders will focus on solidifying community support for the strategy by seeking formal adoption by local governments and key implementing agencies and organizations.

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Greater Lansing Asset-Based Economic Development Initiative

Lansing Economic Area Partnership Foundation (LEAP)
LEAP is creating a pilot project with the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council (Mid-MEAC), and the Michigan Trails and Greenways Association (MTGA) that will transfer the region’s overall economic development strategy into actionable and measurable activities. MTGA’s work developing a green space preservation plan and Mid-MEAC’s “complete streets” initiative are important pieces in the region’s Quality of Place product. The pilot will serve as a model for LEAP to engage other community organizations to achieve community renewal. Another essential activity will be to convene community listening sessions to develop a full inventory and understanding of the region’s assets and develop plans to align, brand and market them in a global economy – a Greater Lansing Asset-based Economic Development Strategy. The initiative will be implemented in two 6-month phases: 1) development of the asset-based economic development plan; 2) mobilizing the constituencies of LEAP’s associated organizations to promote the brand and strategies.

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Millennial Mayors Congress

Michigan Suburbs Alliance (MSA)
Through a Millennial Mayors Congress, MSA aims to create a system for engaging a broad, cross sector leadership and cultivate a new generation of public problem solvers. The fundamental premise is creating attractive places is best done by listening to the voices of the kinds of young, talented people cities and regions want to attract. Essentially, the Congress will bring together city leaders and young adult residents (Millennials) of their communities to co-create the places and opportunities that attract new economy investment. Utilizing consensus-based decision making, mayoral and millennial represents will work together to create protocols that address high priority social, economic or environmental actions that can be implemented locally to produce regional impact. The Congress will also share its findings and goals with another PAL Regional Prosperity Initiative Grantee from the Detroit metro region, the Detroit CVB.

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Northeast Michigan Regional Prosperity Alliance

Northeast Michigan Council of Governments (NEMCOG)
NEMCOG will begin its regional work by convening leaders from all sectors – business, industry, colleges, agencies, organizations, and governments – to collectively create a Regional Prosperity Alliance for the economic and future sustainability. It will organize and implement educational forums to address the key issues that all leaders must understand in order to create prosperous communities and implement a Regional Prosperity Action Plan. In year two, the Alliance will select Prosperity Pilot Projects and identify project teams to demonstrate the application of PAL’s Six Pillars for Prosperity with the region. The Alliance will seek additional funding or re-align existing funding to insure the success of the Pilot Projects.

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Southwest Michigan Regional Collaboration

Southwest Michigan Planning Commission (SWMPC)
SWMPC will take advantage of its position as a convener of the region’s 360 Group, a network of multi-sector, multi-jurisdictional leaders that have met bi-monthly for two years to discuss the potential of the Southwest Michigan region. With assistance of PAL, the Commission create the Southwest Michigan Regional Collaboration to will further develop a “curriculum” of presenters and information resources to enhance the 360 Group’s understanding of the region’s state of economic development, create a common vision, and develop regional goals and objectives. These will coalesce around the PAL Pillars for Prosperity, particularly Thriving Agriculture, Natural Resources for Recreation, Tourism, and Jobs Creation, and Highly Competitive Schools and Lifelong Learning Opportunities.

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Strengthening the Great Waters

Northern Initiatives (NI)
The Upper Peninsula’s Northern Initiatives will build on its previous Great Waters environmental tourism work with the Leveraging the Great Waters Framework, a project to increase awareness of the UP as one of the world’s greatest natural and cultural destinations. NI plans to create new economies through the identification, protection and enhancement of natural, cultural, historic and regional resources in collaboration with communities and their leaders. By actively engaging youth in the planning process and in direct preservation opportunities, NI plans to encourage future ownership of the promotion and preservation of UP assets. One essential element is collaborating with the Sault Tribe of the Chippewa to develop a system of sharing Tribal heritage as part of the region’s sustainable tourism offerings, providing visitors with a greater sense of place and connection to the land. NI will develop a means to measure and monitor program impact through a system of supporting visitor and community feedback on recreational experiences and ongoing preservation and conservation opportunities.

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If you have any questions on the initiative, you may contact People and Land at or (517) 371-7467.