A state initiative that slices Michigan into 10 regions encourages more regional collaboration is taking hold in the Grand Traverse region.
The Regional Prosperity Initiative (RPI) was rolled out by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s economic development team in August.
“What this initiative of the governor’s office recognizes is that economic prosperity is first of all very grassroots, it’s not top down,” said Elaine Wood, CEO of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments. “It has to be local people working together.”
RPI is part of the state budget for the new Oct. 1 fiscal year and contains two central components:
• $2.5 million in competitive grants to encourage local private, public and non-profit partners to work together to create vibrant regional economies
• A state government-wide alignment of services and contacts by geographic area
The initiative’s regional service delivery builds on earlier Snyder administration moves, like splitting Michigan into 10 defined economic development areas. The goal of that alignment was to streamline and improve statewide agencies’ services to communities and businesses, maximize resources, and encourage new regional initiatives.
That economic development approach has been helpful, says Doug Luciani, president and CEO of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.
“For one thing, all of the economic development organizations in our ten counties are talking to each other,” Luciani says. “We talk about what’s happening in areas, share best practices, have collaborated on grants, and grant administration.”
Luciani says the structure has also propelled the region’s economic development organizations to work with community colleges and manufacturers “to find creative ways” that address workforce shortages.
The initiative requires those awarded state grants to create regional prosperity plans. Such a plan could take a comprehensive look at the region’s assets and gaps in areas like recreation, talent, infrastructure and transportation needs.
Bill Rustem, Gov. Rick Snyder’s director of strategy, says he does not want to preclude what our region will ultimately address, but says two potential areas of focus could be tourism and affordable housing for ag and tourism workers.
Grant applications are due Nov. 1; Rustem, who is one of four committee members making the final award decisions, said the state expects to announce its selections by Jan. 1, 2014.
As for how the grants will be evaluated, Rustem said “we’d like to see every region come up with a proposal that moves them from where they are, forward.”