Meet Michigan's Economic Developers
Meet Samantha Seimer, Economic Development Director, City of Farmington Hills
How long have you worked in economic development?
Since 2014 – 5 years
Tell us a little bit about your work history.
I started in economic development as a Management Assistant Intern for the City of Auburn Hills. In this role, I had the opportunity to explore all facets of local government working alongside the City Manager. I learned a little bit about everything, from permits and approvals to demolish a building, to labor negotiations and starting a Downtown Development Authority. After my time as Management Assistant, I transitioned to the Director of Authorities for the City of Auburn Hills. In my role as Director, I oversaw three economic development boards: the Tax Increment Finance Authority, Downtown Development Authority, and Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. Now I am the Economic Development Director for the City of Farmington Hills. As Director, I oversee business attraction, retention and expansion in the community. I work with partners at the local and state level to help businesses grow and succeed in Farmington Hills.
Tell us about your biggest accomplishments in the field.
One of my largest accomplishments to date was a two year project to reinstate the Auburn Hills Downtown Development Authority. This Board had been established in the 80’s but never fully activated. The recession allowed the city opportunities to strategically purchase properties that had been foreclosed on, many of which were near the core downtown area. Starting a DDA with TIF capture would potentially allow the DDA large tax capture to reinvestment in the downtown as vacant properties developed. I worked on this project while completing my Master’s degree. Throughout reinstating the DDA I worked closely with the assessing and community development departments to determine potential tax capture estimates for a 15 year plan and negotiated an interlocal agreement with the County. In all honesty, each project feels like a big accomplishment just due to the time it takes for economic development projects. But, the DDA project will always be near and dear to my heart because it was the first “big” project that really tied together all of the pieces, people and departments necessary for a projects success. The first five years also saw an associated $90 million in redevelopment which doesn’t feel too bad either.
Give us a snapshot of your workweek.
That is one thing that really attracted me to economic development or even local government for that matter – no two days are ever the same. If I had to summarize an average week, I would say I usually spend Monday catching up on emails, checking in on projects and setting up retention visits for the next few weeks. Monday’s help me focus and set the stage for the rest of the week, which is really a toss-up. On my calendar there could be anything from ribbon cuttings, pre-development meetings, site visits, preparing for board meeting, or drafting marketing materials. The only real constant in any given week is follow up communications, lots of emails and lots of phone calls.
What did you study in college?
I received an undergraduate degree from Oakland University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Criminal Justice, and a Master’s in Public Administration from Wayne State University.
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?
College focuses heavily on theory, rather than practice. Economic Development is the art of building trust and lasting relationships – soft, interpersonal skills unfortunately are not found in textbooks. A course in public speaking might prove itself very useful in this career; however I found most success by having economic developer mentors to help guide me through the field and lean on for career support.
How has MEDA helped in your economic development career?
I became a MEDA member while I was still a student. Being involved in MEDA helped me to learn the vast variety of career tracts and opportunities involved in economic development. MEDA has been an influential resource for building my career network, helping to build my confidence as a new economic developer and get more involved in the organization.