Meet Michigan's Economic Developers
Meet Ron Smedley Federal Brownfield Program Specialist, Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
How long have you worked in economic development?
21 years. Two years in Indiana for the Indiana Community Action Association and 19 years with the DEQ.
Tell us a little bit about your work history.
I have been assisting community economic development and planning agencies and private developers with identifying brownfield incentives for investigation and remediation at contaminated sites for 19 years, starting as an Analyst in the DEQ’s Storage Tank Division. My specialization is in assisting local brownfield redevelopment authorities implement tax increment financing plans, managing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brownfield grants. My background is in environmental planning, water and wastewater infrastructure development, real estate marketing and finance, and natural resource management. I have been a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) for eight years.
Tell us about your biggest accomplishments in the field.
Started a redevelopment program in the DEQ’s Storage Tank Division. Managed several millions in U.S. EPA funding to help clean up contaminated properties. Helped redevelop a property into new housing in Kalamazoo with Habitat for Humanity. Worked with community officials all over Michigan to help them achieve their redevelopment goals. Uptown at Bay City is one big project for which I managed a grant and loan. Managing grants to assess and cleanup dozens of former gas stations all around the state.
Give us a snapshot of your workweek.
Writing technical documents and reports (almost every day). Reviewing contractor invoices, scopes of work, and technical reports and work plans from environmental consultants. Talking to clients about current and proposed redevelopment projects. Conducting research about environmental conditions at properties. Coordinating with other DEQ staff to ensure comprehensive responses to customers.
What did you study in college?
I attended Eckerd College, studying social sciences, and graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and specialization in Urban Planning. I have a Master of Public Administration degree from Indiana University-Bloomington specializing in Natural Resource Management and Environmental Planning.
If you could turn back time to your college years, what skills and studies would you have focused on to improve your ability to practice economic development?
More urban development courses and business courses. Possibly a bit more in the biologic sciences.
How has MEDA helped in your economic development career?
Without it, I would probably be doing something else entirely. Being able to build connections, both personal and professional with some of the most interesting and intelligent people I know is one of the best things about MEDA. From an education standpoint, there is no equal to the training that MEDA provides to its members.