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Leveraging News Media to Tell Your Region’s Economic Story

March 2022

Last fall I presented at MEDA’s Fall Toolbox event in Lansing on how economic development organizations can leverage news media to help tell that region’s economic story. Since that date I have engaged with a few communications professionals across the state on this topic; I’ve heard the good and the bad.

The one common understanding I’ve heard from attendees is that a powerful earned media story that paints your region in a solid light can play a powerful role in your storytelling. Site selectors, real estate professionals and c-suite are searching about your city, so it helps immensely if there are positive news stories filling the Google search.

A big part of my presentation was explaining “8 must-knows” about working with news media. I will share them here in hopes that your team can benefit and begin accumulating strong news media stories for your region. Some of these may seem intuitive, but collectively, they form a solid framework for you to work with when it comes to interacting with reporters.

1. Relationships are important

How you treat and respond to reporters affects how you, your brand, or your company is perceived as a valuable source and how it may be perceived in a story. This is not a transactional relationship.

2. Every reporter is a key reporter

They change “beats” often, so you never know when you will encounter them again. Be kind. Be helpful. They’ll remember that.

3. Respect deadlines

Nothing ruins your chances of obtaining positive coverage more than ignoring deadlines or not being responsive enough.

4. Demonstrate newsworthiness

Just because you think the story is interesting doesn’t mean the reporter will go crazy for it. Try to find the “news” in story and lead with that. Reporters report facts and file objective stories;

It’s not advertising.

5. Know Your Audiences

Know the media outlet & its audience. Do research before pitching story: know the beat to pitch to. Do not pitch exact same story angle to every media; cater each pitch to the audience.

6. Think Long Term

Media relations is a marathon, not a sprint. PR efforts now will pay off over time. Become a resource for a reporter; they will pay you back. Offer other sources for reporter to demonstrate helpfulness.

7. Follow Up Intelligently

Follow up, but just don’t become a pest. Be understanding if your pitch does not work

8. Be Ethical

You will be found out if you cheat your way into a story. Don’t ruin your reputation and relationship for short-term gain.

Cultivating and maintaining relationships with news media will pay off greatly over time. And, due to your investment in the relationship, you are educating your news media partners on what you do and how it helps the economy. As a result, their storytelling becomes more powerful and helpful to you and your efforts to recruit and retain companies in your region.

Authored by Craig Clark, owner of Clark Communications in Grand Rapids. You can read more tips about media relations, and public relations in general, on the “PR Tips” section of his website: Contact Craig at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Birgit Klohs Fellowship

February 2022

Fountain 3First things first, wow. I still don’t believe that I was selected to receive this enormous honor. Not only is it an honor coming from Birgit, but the opportunity it presented was fantastic and fortuitous in a way that came to realization a few months later. The fellowship provided by this award allowed me to receive $2,000 worth of economic development training. As someone that is still new to this profession, the training dollars helped me not only further my knowledge base, but also connect with others doing this work across the state and the entire country.

Believe it or not, $2,000 worth of training covers a lot! I was able to attend the annual MEDA conference, the Basic Economic Development Course through MEDA, and 2 additional webinars through the International Economic Development Council. The Basic Economic Development course, and the IEDC courses both qualify for credit towards the CEcD, Certified Economic Developer designation. This fellowship allowed me to purposefully start working towards this designation.

I didn’t know it then, but the timing of those trainings was certainly fortuitous. A short four months after I received this fellowship, and an even shorter amount of time after using the training dollars, I found myself with an unexpected promotion to Acting Economic Development Director. Those trainings, in addition to the mentorship from my predecessor, allowed me to build foundational knowledge and gain confidence that are certainly paying off now. This great honor helped me grow, and I look forward to seeing others receive this wonderful opportunity going forward.

Authored by Samantha Fountain, Acting Economic Development Director, City of Flint.

August 2021

Emloyee Ownership ExpansionMillions of jobs were lost in the past eighteen months as businesses and consumers across the United States and the world were unprepared to deal with the COVID 19 virus. Thousands of jobs were lost in Michigan and many of those sources of income will never return. There is another potential crisis that could result in thousands of companies and jobs being lost in Michigan. The pending crisis has often been referred to as the “Silver Tsunami.”

Baby boomers are marching towards retirement. Most of the ones who own businesses don’t have a plan for the ownership exit from their companies. National studies show that between 75 and 80% of these owners don’t have a business succession or exit plan

The absence of a real plan is likely a “plan for failure”. It should be no surprise that approximately 75% of businesses listed for sale don’t sell as many aren’t ready for sale.

Why Businesses Don't Sell and Why Some Never Sell

What might the impact of the Silver Tsunami be in Michigan? The Michigan Center for Employee Ownership (“MICEO”), a recently formed nonprofit, commissioned a study of privately held businesses owned by individuals who are 55 years of age or older. The study completed by Project Equity, a nonprofit employment research firm, indicates that over 80,000 companies are owned by baby boomers and Gen Xers, employing ~ one million workers in the state. These companies produce annual revenues of $204 billion and payrolls of over $40 billion. Given that the majority of these businesses haven’t been prepared for the next owner(s), tens of thousands of companies and hundreds of thousands of jobs in Michigan could be lost in the next ten years. How will the local communities survive if these businesses and jobs are shuttered permanently?

Economic developers have historically focused on attracting new businesses to their local communities. Given the pending transition of so many privately held businesses, economic development professionals need to ramp up their emphasis on retaining businesses and jobs in their communities. The best way to retain businesses locally in a private sale transaction is to sell to an insider (family, partner, managers, or employees), someone who has a stake in keeping the business local Exit Strategies for Business Owners: Internal Sales - Suncrest Advisors.

There are common challenges in selling the business to family members (no longer involved), partners (often retiring in a similar timeframe), and managers (they don’t have enough money to buy the business, and investors with access to funding are more likely to sell their interest to an outside buyer should the company struggle. One exit option that is very well known is a sale to all or many employees. Employees are very interested in keeping their jobs and remaining locally based. There are many examples of successful sales or “transitions” to employee-owned companies. As a Michigan-based nonprofit, the MICEO serves as an independent source of resources available to economic development agencies and professionals to help inform local businesses of their “insider exit options” (especially a sale to the employees) as part of a retention strategy. Please visit the Michigan Center for Employee Ownership booth at the 2021 MEDA Annual Conference for more information.

Authored by Roy Messing, Acting Executive Director, Michigan Center for Employee Ownership

July/August 2021 

How the Marketing and Business Development Funnel Drives FDI and Business Attraction

Today’s blog introduces the Marketing and Business Development Funnel for economic developers. We will dig into what it is, why it can help you attract more businesses to your community, and how you can use it to close more deals. 

Who should read this article?

If foreign direct investment, business attraction, or business development are important elements of your economic development strategy, then you should keep reading.

Screen Shot 2021 05 10 at 10.27.48 PMWhat is the Marketing and Business Development Funnel?

The Marketing and Business Development Funnel depicts the journey that a site selector or corporate executive takes when assessing new locations. The journey typically begins with an initial evaluation, that identifies your community as a prospect, and it culminates with a decision as to whether your location meets the necessary criteria for investment. Understanding the nature of a structured decision-making process is imperative for economic developers that want to get the inside track and win more deals.

The first step for economic developers is to fill their Marketing and Business Development Funnel by attracting the attention of site selectors, location advisors, and corporate executives who can be referred to collectively as “leads”. The goal is then to retain these leads throughout the subsequent funnel stages to the point where they end up deciding your community is the best location for their business. Moving a site selector through the funnel entails a step-by-step approach that is strategically designed to increase awareness and educate leads about your location’s advantages, assets, and opportunities. 

Why the funnel matters

The funnel can be a valuable concept for economic developers who want to:

  1. Get the attention of site selectors,
  2. Nurture stronger relationships with them, and
  3. Attract more investment to your community.

Applying the Marketing and Business Development Funnel gives you an immediate edge over your competitors that are not dedicating the time and resources to leveraging it.

What are the funnel stages?

The Marketing and Business Development Funnel for economic developers consists of 3 stages – the Awareness Stage, Consideration Stage, and Due Diligence Stage.

Stage 1: Awareness

The awareness stage begins when you get the attention of the site selectors, corporate executives, investors, and businesses you are trying to attract. This stage is critical because it’s where they are first introduced to the strengths and advantages of your location. It’s also the stage where you can start building the case around what sets you apart from competing communities. To do this stage well, economic developers must understand the mindset of a person at the start of a site selection process.

At this stage your job as an economic developer revolves around being helpful, getting attention, and sparking curiosity, rather than providing detailed data or being overly sales-driven. You should be focusing on showcasing your community's unique selling proposition (USP) to encourage site selectors to go to the next stage of the funnel. Having a brief and compelling elevator pitch for your location is key but just as important is the ability to effectively convey that message through your marketing materials.

Stage 2: Consideration

This stage is where the real work begins. You’ve got the attention of location advisors and corporate executives. Now you have to keep it and enhance engagement until they are ready to short-list your location and/or connect with you in person. When a site selector first lands on your website they are in the early phases of research, which likely means comparing different locations and creating a shortlist. As such, your immediate priority is to communicate your location’s advantages in the “Why Us” section of your website. This “Why Us” narrative needs to be easy to find, relevant and engaging.

Stage 3: Assist

Great news – in this stage your location is has been short-listed by a site selector and they are ready to undertake a more detailed analysis as part of their due diligence. Your goal is to assist them with the information they need to build certainty, increase trust, and feel confident in deciding that your community is the right location for their business.

Why you need to optimize your Funnel

I’ll tell you something you probably already know. Site selectors have a lot of options. Of course, you want them to pick your location, but it is a very competitive process. Consequently, you need to promote your location effectively and sell it efficiently.  Without a tight, optimized Marketing and Business Development Funnel, you are not providing what site selectors want when they want it. This increases the chances of your location missing out on new job-creating opportunities.


Ultimately, the Marketing and Business Development Funnel is about building relationships and when it comes to site selection, building strong relationships is the key to success. Understanding the needs of site selectors and having a relationship-building mindset will enable you to promote your location more effectively and convince more job-creating businesses to set up in your community.

To read the full version of this blog post go to:

Authored by Dave Parsell, CEO, Localintel. 

July 2021

URC BlogAccelerating Our Advantage: Talent, Research & Innovation

Through the years, the URC’s appreciation for the challenges economic developers face has grown, particularly through its membership in the Michigan Economic Development Association (MEDA) and relationships with its members.  

Fostering economic growth requires economic developers to harness all the assets of their community to attract and support new and existing businesses. These assets include securing reliable access to a pipeline of high-demand talent and new technologies that will enable companies to be more competitive. These are the very assets that Michigan’s three research-intensive universities which make up the University Research Corridor (URC) – Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University – develop at a scale that rivals other university innovation clusters across the nation. And the URC universities have a shared interest with economic developers in Michigan to grow the competitiveness of our communities and our state economy. 

Each year, the URC enrolls more than 141,000 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels – more than any of the other clusters to which we benchmark each year. It also graduates more than 36,000 people ready to contribute their talents to our economy.

Many of the URC graduates are in high-demand, high-tech fields:

  • 12,735 degrees in engineering, business, and computer science
  • 11,775 high-tech degrees
  • Nearly 2,500 medical field degrees each year – more than in any of the other top clusters.

In addition to providing Michigan with practicing physicians (four out of 10 are URC trained), URC medical talent contribute to the life, medical and health sciences, a robust industry in Michigan that employs one in eight people and was the only Michigan industry to have added jobs during the Great Recession.

The URC’s consistently high rate of talent development over decades has led to a large population of 1.3 million alumni, half of which live and work in Michigan and within every county. Furthermore, many of our URC alumni start their own businesses. One in five URC alumni has started at least one company and, in many cases, multiple businesses. And of these URC alumni entrepreneur-founded businesses, half are located in Michigan.

At $2.5 billion in annual research and development activity, the URC universities stand out for the scope and scale of research and development they conduct each year. Given this volume, which makes up 94 percent of the state’s total, the URC universities enable Michigan to stand out in the nation as a top ten state for academic R&D. Rankings aside, the discoveries that come from this R&D activity lead to innovation and technology enabling Michigan businesses to compete in the global market. Close partnerships with industry have led to meaningful applied research and pathways for talent at our universities. 

In FY 2019, the URC universities had a $19.3 billion impact on the Michigan economy and supported more than 81,000 jobs. This impact stems from not only educating students but also university R&D activity. Our universities contract with companies and organizations across the state to source products, services, and expertise to support research activity in key areas from health sciences to mobility. And the geography of these resources extends to every economic region and county in the state.

The URC universities have a vested interest in the economic competitiveness of Michigan. We need attractive communities that offer high-value jobs with strong companies to increase the opportunities for our graduates in Michigan. And we need strong partnerships with Michigan industries to cross-fertilize ideas and expertise that lead to meaningful research from bench to market, where innovation will accelerate the competitiveness of Michigan businesses.

Michigan has an advantage over other states as home to the URC universities. To press our advantage, we need to work together. Economic developers – experts in your respective communities – are critically important partners to the URC in identifying mutually beneficial opportunities. We are proud to be a member of the MEDA and value the connections and relationships with MEDA members. By working together, members of MEDA and the URC can continue to make Michigan a top ten state for businesses.

Authored by Dr. Britany Affolter-Caine, Executive Director, Michigan’s University Research Corridor.

June 2021

US CapitolARPA Treasury Guidance Begins to Rollout

The United States Treasury Department on May 7, 2021, released the first batch of guidance on how local, state, tribal, and territory governments can use the $350 M in American Rescue Program Act (ARPA) funds. ARPA provided substantial funding for local, state, tribal, and territory governments for the following uses:

  • to respond to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality;
  • to respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers;
  • For the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID–19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency; and
  • to make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.

In addition, Congress clarified two types of uses that do not fall within these four categories. ARPA provides that these eligible uses do not include, and thus funds may not be used for, depositing funds into any pension fund or states and territories, that the eligible uses do not include: “directly or indirectly offset[ting] a reduction in the net tax revenue of [the] State or territory resulting from a change in law, regulation, or administrative interpretation.”

The Treasury draft ARPA rules suggest that public health uses in response to the COVID 19 could include: vaccination programs; medical care; testing; contact tracing; support for isolation or quarantine; supports for vulnerable populations to access medical or public health services; public health surveillance (e.g., monitoring case trends, genomic sequencing for variants); enforcement of public health orders; public communication efforts; enhancement to health care capacity, including through alternative care facilities; purchases of personal protective equipment; support for prevention, mitigation, or other services in congregate living facilities (e.g., nursing homes, incarceration settings, homeless shelters, group living facilities) and other key settings like schools; ventilation improvements in congregate settings, health care settings, or other key locations; enhancement of public health data systems; and other public health responses, capital investments in public facilities to meet pandemic operational needs, such as physical plant improvements to public hospitals and health clinics or adaptations, medical expenses including behavioral health costs triggered by COVID 19, and support of public health services.

The negative impact of COVID 19 on regional economies is also a focus of the Treasury draft rules. Economic measures supported by the Treasury guidance includes unemployment assistance; state unemployment insurance costs; household food assistance, rent, mortgage, or utility assistance, counseling and legal aid to prevent eviction or homelessness, cash assistance, emergency assistance for burials, home repairs, weatherization, internet access or digital literacy assistance, job training to address negative, economic or public health impacts experienced due to a worker’s occupation or level of training. Small business support uses of ARPA suggested by the Treasury guidance includes loans or grants to mitigate financial hardship such as declines in revenues or impacts of periods of business closure, for example by supporting payroll and benefits costs, costs to retain employees, mortgage, rent, or utility costs, and other operating costs; loans, grants, or in-kind assistance to implement COVID-19 prevention or mitigation tactics, such as physical plant changes to enable social distancing, enhanced cleaning efforts, barriers or partitions, or COVID-19 vaccination, testing, or contact tracing programs; and technical assistance, counseling, or other services to assist with business planning needs. In addition, ARPA aid can be provided to tourism, travel, and hospitality, and other industries negatively impacted by the pandemic.

Addressing the impact on housing by COVID 19 also is permitted by ARPA and suggested uses from the Treasury guidance includes: services to address homelessness such as supportive housing, and to improve access to stable, affordable housing among unhoused individuals; affordable housing development to increase the supply of affordable and high-quality living units; and housing vouchers, residential counseling, or housing navigation assistance to facilitate household moves to neighborhoods with high levels of economic opportunity and mobility for low-income residents, to help residents increase their economic opportunity and reduce concentrated areas of low economic opportunity. Educational and childcare services are also permitted uses of ARPA funds.  

Premium pay for impacted workers under ARPA includes the following occupations: Staff at nursing homes, hospitals, and home care settings; workers at farms, food production facilities, grocery stores, and restaurants; janitors and sanitation workers; truck drivers, transit staff, and warehouse workers; public health and safety staff; childcare workers, educators, and other school staff; and social service and human services staff. Government revenue losses due to the pandemic are also permitted with ARPA funds.

Funding of water, sewer, and broadband programs are critical infrastructure that can be a valid use for ARPA funds according to the U.S. Treasury. State water and sewer revolving loan programs appear to be a prime use of ARPA funds.  In addition, Treasury recommends ARPA funds be used for projects that improve drinking water infrastructure, such as building or upgrading facilities and transmission, distribution, and storage systems, including replacement of lead service lines, consolidation or establishment of drinking water systems, to construct publicly owned treatment infrastructure, manage and treat stormwater or subsurface drainage water, facilitate water reuse, and secure publicly owned treatment works, among other uses, and for cybersecurity needs to protect water or sewer infrastructure such as developing effective cybersecurity practices and measures at drinking water systems and publicly owned treatment works.

Investments in broadband infrastructure is another major use for ARPA funds based upon the Treasury guidance. Under the Interim Final Rule, eligible projects are expected to be designed to deliver, upon project completion, service that reliably meets or exceeds symmetrical upload and download speeds of 100 Mbps. eligible projects are expected to focus on locations that are unserved or underserved. The Interim Final Rule treats users as being unserved or underserved if they lack access to a wireline connection capable of reliably delivering at least minimum speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload as households and businesses lacking this level of access are generally not viewed as being able to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications. To meet the immediate needs of unserved and underserved households and businesses, recipients are encouraged to focus on projects that deliver a physical broadband connection by prioritizing projects that achieve last-mile connections. Treasury also encourages recipients to prioritize support for broadband networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and co-operatives—providers with less pressure to turn profits and with a commitment to serving entire communities.

The 151 pages of draft rules are open for a comment period with the US Treasury and input can be provided that can alter these draft rules. Key takeaways from the draft rules are clear:

  • local, state, tribal, and territorial governments need to focus resources are populations and industries directly impacted by COVID 19 and be prepared to back this up with data;
  • public health programs could be a substantial winner for ARPA funding at the local, state, tribal, and territorial government level;
  • worker assistance could as well gain substantial investments from ARPA funding;
  • local government fiscal impacts by changes in the remote worker model may well be the most dramatic impact of COVID 19 from a financial standpoint that will force many local governments to keep ARPA funds in reserve to determine the large scale tax impact from COVID 19;
  • infrastructure funding is limited to water, sewer, and broadband with ARPA funds and hopes that a broader view of ARPA infrastructure to include roads, highways, and bridges do not appear on the ARPA funds horizon but transportation infrastructure may become more affordable of local, state, tribal and territorial governments can use ARPA funds for water and sewer costs and then shift that funding to transportation infrastructure; and
  • broadband projects with ARPA funding need to focus on areas substantially underserved for broadband services—suburban and urban communities are unlikely to qualify for most ARPA broadband funding unless it is for digital literacy programs.

Based upon these Interim Draft ARPA rules from the US Treasury, Montrose Group would recommend local, state, tribal and territorial governments utilize ARPA funding for the following key uses:

  • address any potential revenue losses by reserving the appropriate amount of ARPA funding for at least a year to determine how remote working will impact tax revenues;
  • address large, one-time costs such as unemployment insurance debt owed to the federal government for state governments;
  • recognize the industries and workers hit hardest by the pandemic such as hospitality with short term, targeted grants to ensure these important institutions survive the pandemic;
  • understand the impact of COVID 19 on the region’s economy before using substantial ARPA funds on a wide range of social service needs that are in reality annual governmental expenses; and
  • decide the best use of ARPA funds is to support small business creation, prepare sites for development and create skilled workers through one-time expenses that can produce transformational projects that produce high-wage jobs.

ARPA is an incredible opportunity for local, state, tribal, and territorial governments. However, communities that treat ARPA like a credit card to pay for regular government programs will not only miss a tremendous economic development opportunity they are digging themselves into a fiscal hole when the ARPA funds are gone.

Montrose Group is experienced in advising local communities on how best to utilize federal funding such as ARPA and please contact Dave Robinson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have questions regarding any project finance or ARPA matters.

May/June 2021


Brown DougENVIRONMENTAL DUE DILIGENCE . . . why a Phase I is the best money you can spend

So you’ve got a prospect looking at buying property, perhaps it’s their first foray into real estate, and their lender, attorney or colleague tells them to get a Phase I . . . now what??

The Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (Phase I ESA) begins the innocent landowner’s defense to federal CERCLA liability provided it is completed prior to closing, and within 45-days of purchase to obtain State of Michigan liability protection under Natural Resource and Environmental Protection ACT (NREPA) Part 201. 

Engaging an Environmental Professional to conduct a Phase I ESA is the first required step to obtain liability protection should the property your prospect intends to purchase have recognized environmental conditions (RECs).  An ASTM E1527-13 Phase I is the only environmental screening product that affords liability protection, and at a relatively low cost it includes:

  • A review of prior environmental reports (if available)
  • Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are submitted to the State of Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) the Municipality where the property is located
  • The purchase of an environmental database
  • An Environmental questionnaire being sent to the buyer and seller
  • Aerial and Sanborn Map review
  • Site reconnaissance 

A 500-700 page report is published and a key section confirms whether or not there are RECs.   If RECs are not identified in Phase I, then the environmental due diligence would be complete. Please note that the final determination of what is or isn’t a REC rests with your Environmental Professional, and some are more conservative than others.

OK, so what’s a REC ??

The presence, or likely presence, of hazardous substances or petroleum products on a property under conditions that indicate an existing release, a past release, or the material threat of a release into existing structures on a property or into the ground, groundwater, or surface water is known as a REC and properties with RECs may generically be referred to as Brownfields.

Examples of RECs include but are not limited to, vent pipes, paint booths, aboveground/underground storage tanks, unmarked drums, trench drains, chemicals and solvents, transformers and capacitors, hazardous waste containers, stained soil or pavement, fill material of unknown origin, waste storage areas, construction debris, stressed vegetation, etc.  RECs are not intended to include de minimis conditions (i.e. insignificant amounts) that generally do not present a material threat of harm to public health or the environment, and that generally would not be subject to enforcement action if brought to the attention of regulators.

(keep an eye out for Part II: ENVIRONMENTAL DUE DILIGENCE . . . how to remedy a REC in next month’s blog)

Please CONTACT DOUG BROWN, ASTI ENVIRONMENTAL with any questions at 810-599-8131 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

April 2021

Remote Ready Communities

How is your community positioned to take advantage of the emerging post-pandemic remote workforce?

The New Normal

Before COVID-19 upended workplace norms, around 3% of U.S. workers teleworked on a regular basis. COVID-related impacts have forced employers to rethink the ability to work from distance, and remote work has become the new norm for workers in nearly every industry. A University of Chicago analysis revealed that up to 34% of U.S. jobs can plausibly be performed at home.

Trends of U.S. workers looking to escape dense urban areas have begun to show up in real estate data. Suburban and rural communities are looking to capitalize on this switch by attracting remote or hybrid workers as part of a community and economic development strategy. Which workers are most likely to move? And what factors will attract these workers?

Remote Work is Factoring into Moving Decisions

A Pew Research poll found that one-in-five U.S. adults (22%) say they either changed their residence due to the pandemic or know someone who did. Early indicators for 2021 indicate that this year may be bigger for movers than the last. A recent poll found that 20% more Americans plan to move in 2021 than in 2020.

Factors like a lower cost of living, access to cultural amenities and outdoor recreation, and the ability to purchase a home are already driving young workers to relocate away from large cities. As remote work becomes the norm, suburban and rural areas that are already seeing an uptick could continue to grow and offer an attractive alternative to city living.

Competition for Remote Workers Will be Fierce

As communities look to be Remote Ready they need to evaluate broadband infrastructure, consider lifestyle amenities and create co-work, hybrid, or collision spaces, and offer tailored programs and services specifically for remote workers. With remote work increasingly becoming the new normal, communities that prioritize investments in creative initiatives will have a leg up in attracting the emerging post-pandemic remote workforce.

Click here to read the full blog.

Authored by Chris Worley, Analyst, Fourth Economy Consulting. To learn more about Fourth Economy's work, contact MEDA member Nicole Muise Kielkucki, Director of Economic Innovation, Fourth Economy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

March/April 2021

Extraordinary Opportunity for Women and Minorities to Build Their Career in Economic Development

Klohs Birgit 2020 CroppedWhen Birgit Klohs’ retirement from The Right Place, Inc., was announced in August 2020, MEDA wanted to honor her long-time, highly respected commitment to economic development. MEDA’s Board of Directors selected a fellowship for women and minority aspiring economic developers, which was appropriately assigned to MEDA’s Emerging Leaders Committee.

Upon receiving the award, Birgit said, “Increasing opportunities for women and people of color is critical to the future of the economic development profession and our state’s prosperity, and I look forward to seeing the success of future fellowship awardees.”

This Fellowship is very appropriate for Birgit, who was one of MEDA’s first three female members when she joined the Association in 1977. Today, there are many female leaders in economic development with room to grow. She has undoubtedly worked her way up! Upon retirement in 2021, there was an outpouring of respect for the work done that has made, The Right Place, Inc., “an envy of communities nationally.”

In February of 2021, she became MEDA’s first female Lifetime Members. Lifetime members have a history of accomplishments in economic development and contributions to MEDA.

Klohs, and many partners of The Right Place, Inc., worked hard to create an equitable business climate for minorities, with a recent example being the New Community Transformation Fund, which has raised nearly $10 Million to boost businesses owned by people of color in West Michigan. The fund expects to be $25 Million and expects to make the first investments later this year.

There is no time like the present to start building your career in economic development if you have a passion for business development, community growth, creating fantastic downtowns, building the workforce, or any of the activities the create a better quality of life for residents of our state.

Learn More About the Fellowship and Apply Today


The goal of the fellowship will be to increase women and minority participation in economic development in a way that supports MEDA’s membership, its committees, and the organization as a whole, by increasing opportunities for the education needed to build each recipient’s skills and abilities in economic development.

The fellowship can be utilized for training and professional development including, but not limited to:

  • Education: MEDA Programs, IEDC Programs, NDC Programs, Regional EDO Programs, MEDC/RRC Programs, MML Programs
  • Community Projects: Planning, Board Development, Program Development, Communications, Policy, and Research
  • Networking: MEDA Programs, Regional EDO Programs, Expos related to economic development
  • The first awardee is expected to be announced at MEDA’s 2021 Annual Meeting, which is scheduled to be in Grand Rapids.


The appropriate candidate will be a woman or minority who is looking to actively participate in economic development and needs assistance with the monetary aspect. The highest consideration for candidates applying for the fellowship will be given to early-career economic development professionals as demonstrated through a review of the candidate's resume and professional letters of support.


The awardee will receive a monetary amount that the MEDA subcommittee deems fit in response to the awardee’s application not to exceed $2,000. The awardee will receive the monetary award via expense reimbursement once the event/training/etc. is purchased. The Fellowship subcommittee will require the awardee to send in receipts and any other documents they deem fit in order to reimburse the awardee.

Please apply today!

Authored by Stephanie Carroll, Economic Development Manager, City of Auburn Hills; Cassandra Jorae, Director of Marketing, Communications, and Administration, Michigan Economic Developers Association; and Samantha Seimer, MPA, EDFP, Vice President, Economic Development Services, AKT Peerless Environmental Sevices

MEDA 2021 President's Report - Looking Ahead

February 2021

MEDA recently released its 2021 Annual Report. Below is a write-up from our 2021 President, James McBryde, about what we can look forward to after meeting the challenges from 2020. Some things are already taking place, so links are provided.

McBryde Photo 2020Dear Fellow MEDA Members,

Despite the crazy year, we have had with the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to maintain a robust MEDA membership level of 476 which is truly amazing. This is a credit to the hard work and dedication from our staff - John, Cassandra, and Taylor - as well as everyone serving on the Membership Committee and the Board of Directors. We all worked very hard this past year and the work has paid off!

While we are hoping to be able to hold in-person events as soon as possible, MEDA will continue to look at new ways to deliver education opportunities with outstanding webinars such as “Site Selection Best Practices for a Post- COVID World” on February 4. To accommodate our members, MEDA is making it easier for you to access digital economic development training through our webinar subscription service. This subscription service will allow you to pre-pay for access to live webinars and be able to view previously recorded webinars, such as “Conducting Virtual Site Visits” and “Managing an Economic Development Organization” to name a few.

We will hold our “Emerging Leaders Spring Training” as a virtual event on April 22, but we are planning to hold our Annual Meeting as an in-person event at the JW Marriott in Grand Rapids August 22-25. At the Annual Meeting, we will award our very first Birgit M. Klohs Fellowship. The goal of this fellowship is to increase women and minority participation in economic development in a way that supports MEDA’s membership, its committees, and the organization as a whole. This fellowship was named after Birgit Klohs, President & CEO, The Right Place, Inc., who first joined MEDA in 1977 as one of MEDA’s first three female members. Birgit recently announced her retirement which will take place on January 31, 2021, after many years of economic development leadership, and it’s appropriate that we honor her with the first Fellowship award in Grand Rapids

This year, we will continue to focus on Advocacy as we have in the past. As we have seen in the last few state budget cycles, many MEDC programs that are crucial to the work we do were cut or eliminated. It will be critically important this year for all members to talk to their state elected officials about the importance of economic development and how it helps the districts they serve as well as the state overall. Plus, we will be continuing to recognize state legislators who are helpful to our cause with our “Legislative Economic Development Champion Award” which was inaugurated last year.

Our success as an organization would not be possible without the engagement of you, our members. Even though we are all extremely busy in our daily work aiding Michigan’s economic growth, I am asking you for one simple thing this year: try to get involved in just one extra activity that will advance the success of our organization and economic development throughout the state. If you have not yet served on a committee or attended one of our events, try to do so this year.

Best Regards,

James McBryde
2021 MEDA Board President
President and CEO
Middle Michigan Development Corporation

MEDA 2020 President's Report

January 2021

I am pleased to say that 2020 is now past us and we can look forward to bright 2021. While 2020 was a very challenging year for everyone, MEDA has a lot of accomplishments to be proud of.

I want to thank our amazing staff - John, Cassandra, and Taylor - for not only being able to quickly adapt to the changing environment but continuing to provide MEDA members the education, tools, and networking opportunities they find valuable. They did an outstanding job this past year, adding new programming and providing events held either virtually or as a hybrid event like the Annual Meeting in Traverse City.

I appreciate the service of our Board for being available to participate in the extra meetings we held this past year. I would also like to thank three Board members who stepped down, after serving many years, from the Board to allow new members to participate: Monique Holliday-Bettie, Amy Clickner, and Dan Casey. Thank you for your support through the years. I would also like to welcome our three new Board members, who I know will serve the organization well: Mary Myers, John Wolf-Meyer, and Alan Weber. I look forward to working with you.

With the retirement of Birgit Klohs, MEDA created its first fellowship with a goal to increase women and minority participation in economic development. I want to thank Carolyn Bennett for the idea and for helping to organize the fundraising support to create the endowment. You can donate to the Birgit M. Klohs Fellowship from MEDA’s website. We will announce our first Fellowship recipient at our Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids.

The Advocacy Committee presented the first Legislative Economic Development Champion Awards to ten legislators for their work in championing economic development in their district and for the state as a whole.

The Board decided to host Happy Hours for members to provide an opportunity to discuss any topics they chose and provide an opportunity to network with fellow members.

After the Education Committee worked with staff on webinars, the Board decided to make this an ongoing form of education by creating a library of webinars that members can access for a low cost beginning in 2021. MEDA wants to assure that we offer a variety of opportunities and vehicles that deliver education to members.

At the end of 2019, we celebrated our highest numbers ever in membership. We are happy to say that the membership declined only slightly during the pandemic. Our financial position is also in very good shape as we begin 2021.

I am very pleased to welcome Jim McBryde as your next President and am confident that he will do a great job leading the Board in 2021. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your MEDA President during our 60th Anniversary and I look forward to a prosperous 2021.

Kimberly Marrone
2020 MEDA Board President
Economic Development and Communications Director
City of Oak Park 

To view the full 2020 Annual Report, click here.

Partnership News and Views: ‘Twas The Night Before Amy’s Christmas

Amy Clickner 2019December 2020

Well folks, one of my Christmas wishes came early this year. You all know Don Ryan of the Ryan Report, but what you may not know is that he is a founding member of the Lake Superior Community Partnership and a huge mentor of mine. Over the years, Don has gotten me out of my comfort zone more times than I can count and taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to.

If you are a regular of Marquette County’s Economic Club, you know that for many years at the December meeting, Don presented his entertaining and light hearted ‘Twas of the Night Before Christmas injecting a local flavor into it. A true tradition and something I had always hoped to create with Don one year. Well folks, while there sadly is no public presentation this year, Don did agree to make my wish come true. Enjoy!

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house

not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

In hopes that Santa Claus soon would be there.

And I in my kerchief and my hubby in his Cubs cap

had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.

As we laid there nestled all snug in our bed

visions from the past year danced in my head.

It had been a tough year because of COVID-19.

For many it was the most difficult they’d seen.

And as I lay tossing and turning in bed

I recalled what my letter to Santa had said.

Dear Santa I wrote, this year is different indeed.

And the people in my community have so much they need.

We still wish for toys for the kids in our town,

especially for the families whose luck has turned down.

Many have lost jobs and are hurting this year.

When making your rounds please add extra cheer.

And Santa please keep our health care workers in mind.

They deserve the very nicest gifts you can find.

They have worked very hard to keep us safe as can be,

They deserve a merry Christmas I’m sure you agree.

And Santa remember our businesses in town.

For parts of the year many were shut down.

They found creative ways to serve the customers they see

so please place some special gifts under their tree.

There are many others Santa, like all frontliners and schools.

NMU, local governments and the workers with tools.

The people who work in our stores every day,

please have some nice gifts for them on your sleigh.

Don’t forget our non-profits who serve above self.

May they find ways to maintain organizational health.

And Santa, while it’s been a difficult year,

in some ways we’ve come closer with those we hold dear.

Our families have spent much more time with each other.

Our sisters, our brothers our father our mother.

But there are those we have missed as they live far away,

and it’s just not safe to travel and meet up that way.

And there are friends and co-workers who once gave us bliss.

Now meetings, hand shaking and friendly hugs we miss.

Church, weddings and celebratory gatherings are small.

We’re looking forward to the days when we can have them all.

Yes, Santa we are almost through it and it has been a tough year.

In the months ahead please grant us some good news and cheer.

And with that, sleep was coming and I drifted off to dream

of Christmas trees and Santa Claus and his flying reindeer team.

And in my dream I heard him say as he drove out of sight,

Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.


a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.

July 2020

We continue to move our economy and community forward on a path to “recovery” from the devastating effects of COVID-19. I would argue, however, that based on the true definition of “recovery” what we are experiencing is better characterized as a “rebirth”. Why? Because returning to a normal state, pre-COVID is certainly not happening anytime soon.

I also use “rebirth” because of how innovative and creative our businesses and organizations continue to be to meet the new regulations, customer expectations, employee needs … all while keeping their entity running. Have you been to a restaurant, salon, medical appointment, or small retailer lately? If you have, then you certainly have experienced the new normal of such activities.

This past weekend I was showing our house guests around the area. Hitting Marquette’s downtown, I was surprised how busy it was. Cars in hotel parking lots, a busy Farmer’s Market, and people bustling in and out of storefronts. But I felt very comfortable. People were masked and patiently lined up if a store was at its maximum capacity. Many diners were enjoying the beautiful weather outside.

Stores were properly signed with mask reminders, plexiglass galore, and directional arrows if need be. Employees were all masked up, monitoring capacity and sanitizing tables and countertops in between customers. Most menus are disposable or double as a placemat. Hand sanitizers can be found around every corner.

Stopping for a beer on a beautiful day? Plenty of outdoor space, plexiglass, masks required, and even a wristband if you have heard the “safety” spiel already!  

Dinner was pizza on the west end, and again, wearing my mask, I picked up our to-go order with a cashless transaction and single-use pen. I have had my haircut, grocery shopped, paid for gas inside, had a physical and even attended church during this rebirth phase and I have to say how proud I am to be from a community who takes the necessary precautions to protect all. Does it feel like we’re back to normal? Of course not. But it is our new normal to be embraced.

And, of course, with the rebirth has come curbside pickup, more delivery options, more website and phone apps for shopping, additional outdoor seating, and cocktails to go if the timing is not right for you to go inside.

Yes, we will get through this and we will do it together. Don’t forget the deadline for the Michigan Business Restart grants is August 5. Get your application in!

Reflecting on the Past Year with MEDA

December 2019

Reflecting back on the past year, I am both honored and humbled to be part of a truly amazing year for MEDA. The support of our sponsors, committee chairs and vice-chairs, members, and staff have been wonderful. Your participation in MEDA is critical and essential to the overall success of our organization. We are looking forward to developing new programs.

2019 was incredible for many reasons. Under the leadership of President Justin Horvath, we reached and then surpassed our membership goal, we held our Annual Meeting in the Upper Peninsula, and programs and training sessions like IEDC’s Real Estate Development and Reuse have had record attendance. This level of engagement will continue to strengthen and advance MEDA’s mission.

Our Annual Meeting will be in Traverse City, August 18-21, 2020, at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. The planning committee is hard at work on the content and you will be seeing information come out in the next few months about the event. You will not want to miss it.

Thank You and Cheers to 2020!

Stephanie Carroll, Manager, Business Development and Community Relations at the City of Auburn Hills, was MEDA's Board Secretary in 2019. She is also the Co-Chair of the Emerging Leaders Committee and has served as Board President in 2016.

Amy Clickner 2019MEDA Comes to the U.P. for the First Time in Over 20 Years

September 2019

The Michigan Economic Developers Association (MEDA), founded in 1960, exists to advance economic development throughout Michigan, and increase the individual member’s effectiveness in the economic development profession. The association’s goal is to provide a variety of services and programs that will enhance ability and skills in economic development. Through education, legislative updates, public relations and networking, MEDA makes it possible for economic development professionals statewide to accomplish their goals more efficiently and effectively. (

I am a proud member and former President of the Michigan Economic Developer’s Association or MEDA. Through this involvement, I have attended many educational conferences and created a strong network of peers and mentors across the state of Michigan. In this business, you can never stop learning as things are constantly changing.

When I started in this profession, it was all about business attraction and incentives. Now as economic developers, we are called upon to play a role in talent development, business services, creating a sense of place and equity issues. As the business world continues to move toward a triple bottom line (people, planet, profits), they want to measure their performance in more than just profit. Social and environmental issues continue to rise up as part of the way business should be done and we as economic developers need to learn how to support this too.

But I digress. I was speaking of MEDA and the educational opportunities it provides for economic developers. Each year they have an annual conference that draws practitioners from across the state. This conference has not been held in the U.P. in over 20 years, until a few weeks ago, when it took place in Marquette.

The host committee and MEDA staff worked hard to put together a top notch agenda, broke records in sponsors and sponsorships and showed 150 economic developers from across the state why the Upper Peninsula is the purest of Pure Michigan.

There are so many “thank yous” to share including those who stepped up to sponsor the conference financially including Upper Peninsula Collaborative Development Council, Laborers’ International Union of North America – Local 1329, Northern Michigan University, Travel Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, Michigan Technological University, Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development Commission/Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation, Enbridge, Inc., Envirologic Technologies, Inc., Northern Initiatives, American Transmission Company, U.P. Building Trades Council, Upper Peninsula Economic Development Alliance, Upper Peninsula Construction Council, Lake Superior Community Partnership, Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Regional Commission, Innovate Marquette SmartZone, InvestUP, Luce County Economic Development Corporation, Pictured Rock Cruises and Upward Talent Council/Michigan Works!.

We also provided three different tours for our visitors. Thank you to Cleveland-Cliffs, Inc., PotlatchDeltic and the Marquette DDA for hosting tours. And don’t forget about the local subject matter experts that peppered the agenda throughout the few days including Laura Reilly from Kendricks, Bordeau, Keefe, Seavoy & Larsen, P.C., Matt Johnson from Eagle Mine, Emma Cooke from Enbridge, Inc., Patrick Bloom from Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., LR Swadley from Swadley Development LLC, Ray Johnson from Invent@NMU, Bob Jacquart from Jacquart Fabric Products, Pasi Lautala from Michigan Technological University and Alex Palzewicz from Taste the Local Difference. Our kick off keynote was Governor Whitmer and the sessions tackled important issues like recreational marijuana, housing, talent, mining, tariffs and entrepreneurship. Whew! We squeezed that all in with some time left to see the sights.

The Holiday Inn hosted the event with rooms and conference center, Checker Transport handled the transportation and receptions were held at the Landmark Inn, Ore Dock Brewing Company and the Marquette Regional History Center. Feedback on all aspects of the conference was positive and highly ranked in the follow up survey.

It was great to see the region through the eyes of our visitors, many who brought their families and stayed for the week or weekend. They constantly commented on how friendly our community was and that customer service was top notch. Of course, many pledged to be back!

Again, a huge thank you to everyone who played a role in and around the conference. Together we hit it out of the park!

Authored by Amy Clickner, CEcD, CFRM, Chief Executive Officer, Lake Superior Community Partnership.

volunteer 1Strong Community is Built on Volunteerism

August 2019



noun a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting to the Ishpeming Rotary Club. What you may not know is that Rotary was one of the places I “cut my teeth” in the volunteer world. From chairing Seafood Fest with my good Rotarian friend, Dr. Chris Wilkinson, to presiding as president one year, I truly believe I “took” more than I gave with what I learned about leadership and service.

While the saying goes “love makes the world go ’round” I would argue that so do volunteers. Think about it. How often do you interact with a volunteer or volunteer yourself?

In our community, volunteers are part of what makes us so special. From an event perspective, they would not be possible if it wasn’t for people giving their time. International Food Fest, Relay for Life, Ore to Shore, Iron Range Roll, to name a few, all rely on volunteers.

Let’s look at our school systems. Booster clubs, concession stands, classroom support, and chaperones allow parents and other caregivers the opportunity to support their local schools. And for students, a variety of clubs, organizations and elected positions give them a taste of giving back even before adulthood. Northern Michigan University provides students with ample volunteer opportunities including the Superior Edge program that has a component of becoming an engaged, involved citizen.

The Lake Superior Community Partnership is a nonprofit organization and we have a volunteer board of directors that help lead and support our strategic direction. Our task forces and committees are volunteers and give their time in areas such as the Lake Superior Leadership Academy, transportation, government relations, and marketing. Our LSCP Foundation is also surrounded by great volunteer support.

Think of the number of boards and committees in and around the county that are populated with people giving back. United Way, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, various foundations, churches and service clubs all require donated time to be successful.

Oftentimes when we look for organizations to provide our time and talent to, we forget about the public sector or elected positions. Think county board, city/township council, state or federal representatives, school board, planning commission, parks, and recreation board and the long list of others required for a government to do business. While I realize these types of positions may sound more intimidating, making sure we have strong elected officials serving the needs of our citizens is critical.

So how can you get involved?

  • Be a guest at a service club meeting
  • Attend your city council or planning commission meeting
  • Research organizations in our area that spark your interest
  • Ask friends, family, and coworkers about their involvement
  • Check out the “Volunteer Opportunities” page of The Mining Journal
  • Talk to event coordinators and ask how you can help

I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest applying to the Lake Superior Leadership Academy, which is currently recruiting for the Class of 2020! The academy provides you an opportunity to address pertinent community needs, strengthen your leadership abilities and encourage you to personally commit to taking on new leadership roles in the community.

Really, the key is to jump right in and get involved! You will never regret giving your time, talent and treasure to something that betters the community in which you live. Be the example for others to follow.

Understanding the Entrepreneurial Mindset

June/July 2019

UnderstandingWe often hear the term “entrepreneurial mindset” but what does it really mean and why is it important? As our youth look toward their future and identify career options, it is helpful for them to consider their entrepreneurial mindset.

In the workforce we find two broad categories of people; entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. In very general terms they can be considered the business owners and their employees. But, let’s take a closer look and consider the role having an entrepreneurial mindset plays in both groups.

We have become accustomed to the word entrepreneur. We can recognize the top ten characteristics an entrepreneur tends to have which include: a spirit of adventure, a strong drive to achieve, self -confidence, goal-oriented, innovative and creative, persistent, having a positive attitude, initiative, and a strong sense of commitment. To begin a business, a person whose personality encompasses some, if not most, of these characteristics tend to have greater success. Entrepreneurs are visionaries and calculated risk-takers. They have many skill sets that are required to get a business off the ground floor. Skills such as creative and critical thinking, team building, record keeping, and financial management, strategic planning and goal setting, research and organization, and good decision making. These skills are necessary to build a business.

In comparison, the intrapreneur is the one working in the business. Good employability skills include good communication and critical thinking, the ability to continue learning, a positive attitude and taking responsibility, being flexible and cooperative. Employers today are asking more of their employees than in years past. They are looking for employees who are self-starters, who think creatively, who do not need to be micromanaged, who are team players and can take on leadership roles, who are communicators with strong presentation skills, who can negotiate and understand finances. Employees today are given more authority over their work within the business and therefore, these skill sets are just as or sometimes more important than the technical skills their job requires.

As one can see the characteristics of both groups have quite a bit of overlap in today’s world of work. The ability to identify problems and find reasonable solutions is really the key component of the entrepreneurial mindset. This mindset is needed both for starting a business as the entrepreneur and in the day-to-day operations of running the business as the intrapreneur. The primary difference between the two groups is the level of risk-taking.

It is not too soon to nurture this entrepreneurial mindset in students within the K-12 education system. Giving students the tools in which they can seek career options whether as an entrepreneur or intrapreneur based on their talents and interests will be key to their long-term success. Once they have an occupation in mind, they can research the post-secondary education required to attain their goal. Overall, a person who is well-equipped with a positive attitude, good communication skills, and self-confidence will be ready for the world of work regardless of which group he/she belongs.

Marsha Madle, CBSP, is the President of Madle Consulting Services, LLC an Economic and Business Development consulting firm. She is also Co-Chair of MEDA's Education Committee.

Five Reasons a Mentor is Important to Your Economic Development Career

June 2019

No two career paths to economic development look identical. Having a trusted and seasoned colleague to guide you throughout your career path is important to prepare you for success. Whether you are still in school, or in the early stages of your career and seeking a better understanding of working in the industry, MEDA’s Emerging Leaders Network can help you find a mentorship that best fits your goals.

Aside from asking questions and getting advice, here are five unique ways that having a mentor is important to advancing your career in economic development:

1. Confidence Champion

Knowing that you have a credible mentor to turn to when faced with difficult situations and recognizing the good decisions you’ve helps build confidence and allow a mentee to view themselves as an experienced economic developer. When a mentee can see themselves as confident, they will be strong in their decisions and more successful in the field. Additionally, having a mentor means you have a personal champion – someone who will talk you up to others, be your advocate and have your back.

2. Building Relationships

Upon being a personal career champion, a mentor can put you in touch with the right people to help grow your network. The more people you meet, the greater opportunities, and the more people you can turn to for advice in the future. The relationships you make may be the most crucial asset an economic development project.

3. Fresh Perspective

A good mentor helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses from a different perspective. Having a mentor pushes you to improve upon your weaknesses, play into your strengths and accept feedback. Many times mentors open mentees eyes to addressing a situation from a different angle, or how to take a critical look the details of a project. 

4. Unspoken Truths

Culture and implicit rules of an organization can be intimidating when changing career tracts, or just starting off in the field. Think back to your first big networking event, or speaking engagement – nerve-wracking, right? Mentor can help guide you through proper protocol and etiquette for events and meetings which can be critical for success and maintaining your confidence.

5. Knowledge Transfer

This last point of discussion is important to the whole field of economic development. Nearly 10,000 people reach retirement age every day in the United States. As the Baby Boomer workforce retires, many take their strong institutional knowledge with them as they go. However, a strong mentorship program can help insulate economic developers from such a drastic shift in workforce dynamics and insure that knowledge is transferred for decades to come. 

If you are interested in finding a mentor, or becoming a mentor, please visit the Emerging Leaders page on MEDA’s website and click on MEDA Mentorship Connection to learn more.

Authored By: Samantha Seimer, Economic Development Director, City of Farmington Hills. Sam is a Co-Chair for MEDA's Emerging Leaders Committee. Meet Sam here.

Closer Look at Industry Sector Leads to New Program

May 2019

With all of the recent programs that are focusing on Talent Attraction, let’s not lose sight of the needs of our existing businesses that have different talent needs other than the “in-demand” jobs with the “in-demand” degrees. There are probably a number of your employers with job openings requiring highly technical certifications, which may be different from what’s being targeted as “in-demand”. These are also great livable wage jobs.

It came to light through Saginaw Future’s retention call program on area trucking, distribution and heavy equipment manufacturers and operators that there was a significant need for diesel technicians. Saginaw County has a very large concentration of these types of companies along the I-75 corridor between Birch Run and Buena Vista. We learned that nearly every company we called on had a need to hire one or two technicians so Saginaw Future took a proactive roll to lead an effort to help meet these needs.

As a first step, Saginaw Future met with the area trucking association, the Tri City Chapter of the Equipment & Maintenance Division of the Michigan Trucking Association, and conducted an informal survey at their meeting and then by a follow-up email to all of their members. It was determined that a minimum of 20 mechanics would be needed over the next 12 months, sparking enough interest for a “Fast Start” program and the ability to move forward.

The Fast Start program is something that Delta College has been partnering on with the Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works! for a number of years to help area employers meet their talent needs in a short period of time. Delta already had an auto mechanic associate degree program, but nothing that included the skillsets needed for diesel engines.

Our next step was to coordinate meetings with the companies, Delta College and Michigan Works! to determine how the design and funding of such a program could possibly take place. Over the course of a couple of months, we met regularly to determine curriculum, funding for the equipment needed and possible financial assistance to enrolled students. Delta was instrumental in providing the necessary staff that could help with the curriculum and look for grant opportunities for funding. The Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works! provided assistance with student funding via the Skilled Trades Training now the Going Pro funding. They were able to assist with funding for classroom training and the tools needed by the students to perform actual work on diesel engines.

A funding opportunity then arose through the Harvey Randall Wickes Foundation in Saginaw and Delta developed and submitted a request for funding. Their request for $726,024 in support of a new Diesel Technician Program was subsequently awarded. The funding included monies for the purchase of tools, equipment, training and faculty certification. Delta College staff then finalized the curriculum.

Finally, in order to put together the first “Fast Start” training program we needed to seek employer input to send trainees (current employees and recent new hires). This was secured through emails and personal contact. We were able to get enough participants to provide our employers with their first “Fast Start” program, which was a resounding success.  

Today, Delta College offers a Heavy Duty Diesel Technician program with two options-an associates’ degree or entrance into a Fast Start program. The employment outlook for entry-level heavy duty diesel service technicians is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Completing the Heavy Duty Diesel (HDD) Service Technology Associate Degree prepares a person for an entry-level career as a HDD service technician. The program includes the fundamentals of the operation and preventive maintenance of heavy duty diesel systems and hands-on training. The technical HDD classes cover a variety of diesel-powered vehicles, engines and power systems.

Licenses & Certifications

The Delta College HDD program includes a certification exam from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). The HDD ASE exam provides an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of heavy-duty diesel service at a master service technician level. Many employers require this ASE certification credentials when hiring HDD technicians.

As a heavy-duty diesel service technician, you may be required to have a commercial driver’s license to be able to test-drive large trucks and other vehicles.

Program Benefits

  • Access to all Delta College resources in academics, financial aid, career services and student life
  • Cost savings
  • Study close to home on Delta College’s main campus
  • Wide variety of hands-on educational settings … face-to-face and online classes
  • ASE Heavy Duty Diesel certification exam included in program
  • Dual enrollment options
  • Financial aid available

Authored by Steve Jonas. Steve Jonas is the executive vice president of Saginaw Future Inc., a private nonprofit economic development organization serving Saginaw County. Steve has been employed in economic development for over 30 years and his primary area of expertise is the Corporate Watch Program, a county-wide business retention call program. He is a past President of MEDA 2002 and is currently the Chair of the Certified Business Park Committee.

The Opportunity in Opportunity Zones

April 2019

Economic Developers in Michigan have an exciting new tool: Opportunity Zones (OZ’s). This federal program provides opportunities for investors with capital gains to reinvest in federally designated areas. There are OZ’s in every county in Michigan. Visit MSHDA’s website or click here for a map. The investments occur through a new vehicle known as Opportunity Zone Funds. There are three targets for investment: real estate; businesses located in OZ’s; or venture-funds for startups.

This is a complicated program and it is advised that economic developers take advantage of the resources that exist to learn the rules and work with their local communities in designated OZ’s to capture as much benefit as possible. This article focuses on the role of the economic developer.

There are three broad areas where professionals can create impact:

  1. Assisting communities to identify and market their real estate opportunities
  2. Assist businesses or property owners to create their own fund
  3. Recruit local or national investors to consider opportunities in your OZ

The key to the program is to identify market-ready projects that need capital. Projects should already be identified with a clear understanding of the financial model. Once a fund is established, it has 31 months to deploy its resources. Building rehabilitation is an example of a good project, but rules require that the proposed investment must equal or exceed the basis (value) invested in the real estate minus land. In other words, if an investor buys a building for $500,000, he must invest at least the same amount for it to be an eligible project. Greenfield projects also are attractive if the market is well-established for the proposed development.

The most effective method of marketing OZ projects thus far is to create a prospectus that describes the opportunity, demographics, zoning and community for which the project is proposed. Here are two examples of online prospectus’ that exist today:

Erie, Pennsylvania:

Louisville, Kentucky:

Once projects are identified, look for portals to list your opportunities. At the moment, there are more funds to invest than development-ready projects. Here’s one location where you can list your projects:

Businesses and real estate owners need to be educated about this new program to understand how it may benefit them. Consider partnering with an attorney to hold an educational program. Here’s a partial list of attorneys who are assisting communities and businesses with matchmaking or creation of funds: Howard & Howard – Gina Stoudacher or William Burdett; Plante Moran – Gordon Goldie; or Dykema Gossett PLLC – Scott R. Kocienski.

A web presence with a description of the program and the benefits to investors is a good way to start your marketing campaign. Ann Arbor SPARK and Lansing LEAP are two EDO’s that have launched new sections on their websites. Other EDO’s will soon join the parade, so don’t miss this OPPORTUNITY to attract capital to development-ready projects or businesses in your area.

Casey DanAuthored By: Dan Casey, Chief Executive Officer, Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County. Dan is MEDA's 2019 Board Treasurer.


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