Community- The First and Last Word in Michigan Economic Development
By Charles Chandler- White Cloud City Council Member and N3 Contributor
Last Wednesday on January 10th some 16 hardy Michiganders traveled through a growing winter storm to attend a presentation about the Michigan “Redevelopment Ready Communities” (RRC) program. The event was arranged by Mark Guzniczak Business Development Coordinator for Newaygo County and held in the excellent conference room at the Stream in downtown Newaygo.
The event arrangements and logistics at the Stream were professionally managed by Rhonda Wert-Carr and Kim Goodin. This quality facility was a perfect place for this event because “it had weight”. The MEDC facilitators from...
...State Offices in Lancing were Katharine Czarnecki Senior Vice President Community Development, Karen Wieber Senior RRC Planner and Sue DeVries Community Assistance Team Specialist for the West Michigan economic development region. The attendees were the folks that you would want in this meeting because they are the people who have been hired or elected to represent us and help address the complexities and challenges of economic development in our geographical area.
Some of those attending were: Newaygo County Administrator Chris Wren, Drain Commissioner Dale Twing and County Commissioner Chris Ortwein, City Managers from Newaygo, Grant, White Cloud, and representatives from Ludington, Big Rapids, Mecosta County and others.
During the presentation and following Q and A we learned that The MEDC has developed a philosophy, a methodology, with processes and assorted tools that can give communities in Michigan of various sizes and with diverse economic goals the opportunity to become a certified Redevelopment Ready Community. It was my understanding that the MEDC will provide guidance, human, technical and financial resources for those communities that engage in the program and seek certification as a designated Redevelopment Ready Community.
An example of such a RRC project would be if a municipality had some multi story commercial structure along their business corridor that had been sitting vacant and would like to repurpose it into a retail space for boutique specialty stores and maybe a small coffee shop but they lack the resources to make it happen. A way forward would be to engage in the RRC program, make the commitment to become certified and establish a designated project. The next step is that your project is placed in the queue and at a designated time you would be matched up with developers that have the capability and desire to execute a project like yours.
After hearing the presentation, reviewing the three steps of the RRC Certification Process and also consulting the MEDC website I suggest that the certification process is straight forward, very robust, and will require a good deal of work and commitment on the part of the communities wanting to become RRC certified. The RRC Certification Process is not for every municipality or project, however, it should be noted that the RRC Certification Process includes those best practices that we as members of municipal governments should already have in place or need to do.
For example after the presentation I asked Senior Vice President Katharine Czarnecki and Senior RRC Planner Karen Wieber to identify two or three critical success factors that should be achieved in order to receive RRC Certification. They both agreed that municipalities “should have a good updated master plan backed up by a set of supporting ordinances and be engaged and communicating with members of the community.”
Is becoming RRC Certified worth the effort? My dime is of course, this is a bottom up program that help communities tailor their economic development initiatives to their unique strengths and character and signals investors and developers that they are competitive, forward facing and want to grow and now have an approved RRC project.
Does this program work?
Consider this news article posted on the MEDC www.site dated Wednesday, December 14, 2016 by Kathy Achtenberg 517.335.4590:
LANSING, Mich. – “Five business expansions and one community revitalization project that will generate nearly $58.4 million in total investment and create 480 jobs in Michigan have received Michigan Strategic Fund approval for support, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced today.” (http://www.michiganbusiness.org/community/development-assistance/#rrc)