Katharine Czarnecki is senior vice president of community development at the Michigan Economic Development Corp. David Lorenz is vice president of Travel Michigan.
In June, The Wall Street Journal published an article titled: “A Fascinating Long Weekend in Detroit: The Essential Guide.” While the travel column certainly highlighted many of the traditional tourism destinations in the city, it also featured locations like El Moore Lodge, Hamtramck Stadium and Détroit is the New Black.
Each of these projects are supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. in various ways, illustrating the ripple effect economic development efforts have throughout communities and the economy, in addition to how Michigan’s economic success requires a collaborative effort between business investment, community revitalization and tourism attraction.
While supporting a pro-growth environment for Michigan’s business communities both large and small may form the engine of our state’s economy, building vibrant communities is at the heart of our state’s strategy to further create engaging places to live, work, visit and play.
The city of Grayling – a Redevelopment Ready Community and Michigan Main Street participant – is a prime example of how collaborative development drives big impacts. Grayling residents identified the Au Sable River as a major economic driver in the downtown and surrounding region. This comes as no surprise, with visitors spending more than $53 million in Crawford County in 2017 alone.
A primary barrier for better utilizing this asset was public access to the river itself. In 2018, the city was awarded a Community Development Block Grant for public infrastructure improvements needed for the public river access and canoe launch in downtown Grayling, further expanding recreational tourism draw for paddlers, anglers and the general public.
These efforts work in tandem with the opening of a new $450 million particleboard facility by Arauco North America, supported by the MEDC, employing about 250 people and leading to a corresponding Kirtland Community College campus being built nearby to prepare talent for the facility – talent who also want a great quality of life.
Or take the recent announcement in the Village of Vicksburg, with MEDC supporting a transformational project to redevelop the historic paper mill into a mixed-use development that will house an event space for community concerts, residential and hotel rooms for tourists visiting the region, demo gardens and public green space, as well as a beer incubator for guests and community members to enjoy. This exciting development will not only invigorate the community’s economy by creating new jobs and generating private investment, but it highlights how the MEDC’s economic development tools support communities of all sizes in Michigan become vibrant places where people want to live and visit.
As the debate over a state budget for fiscal year 2020 continues in the coming months, it is important we recognize that so many reasons people are excited to visit our state and experience all that Pure Michigan has to offer are either a result of, or directly impacted by, broader community development efforts between the state and local partners. These include efforts to assist in historic preservation, remove blight, bolster community spaces and strengthen Main Streets throughout Michigan.
From new travelers and in-bound talent, to longtime residents looking to invest in their hometown, our mission at the MEDC is to empower our communities to proactively shape their future and build a solid foundation for growth.