News from Sarah Lucas and Lake Superior Community Partnership, sharing the U.P. Perspective:
Economic development doesn’t just happen – it happens in a place.
It may sound obvious, but location is everything for any business or development venture. When businesses or developers decide where to locate or expand, they ask questions about the community they’re considering investing in, and how it supports business growth and economic sustainability. How difficult is it to obtain the permits or approvals needed to develop or open a business? Is there enough infrastructure, and is it affordable and efficient? Are there amenities like housing, good schools, parks, trails, services, and shopping that will attract a workforce?
Many of these issues are driven or influenced by local governments, who make decisions about the policies, infrastructure, amenities, and community improvements that will attract business or residents. Essentially, local governments function as economic developers: their work to improve the community pays off with growth and investment down the road.
However, these improvements take time and money, and for small communities with limited budgets and staff, it can be hard to find the resources and time to make plan and budget for long-term improvements – or even to apply for grants that could help fund them. Instead of planning ahead for economic growth, many local governments are only able to respond to immediate needs. This leaves communities with smaller budgets unprepared for opportunity and less likely to be able to access grant funding.
This is a common economic development challenge for rural areas, and one that the Lake Superior Community Partnership (LSCP) is working to address with a new service-sharing model, thanks to an innovative approach on the part of the City of Ishpeming.
This month, the LSCP and the City of Ishpeming are kicking off a new partnership that will support the City as they make decisions and investments in community improvements. Under the agreement, the LSCP is providing staff time and resources focused on activities that will prepare the City for growth and investment - while saving the City the costs of hiring additional staff.
One priority for the LSCP’s work is communications support that will allow the City to proactively communicate with residents and businesses about City activities. In addition to social media, newsletters, and other outreach materials, the LSCP will host events geared to both businesses and communities, designed to provide updates from the City and opportunities for community discussion. LSCP staff will also be connecting with individual businesses to gain feedback and build relationships.
Another major focus for the partnership is neighborhood improvement and blight remediation – an issue that has been a primary concern for the City and its residents for years. The LSCP will help City staff and Council to prioritize options and take action, while working to coordinate grants, partnerships, and other resources that can address neighborhood improvement needs.
Finally, the LSCP will work with the City towards its certification as Redevelopment Ready Community (RRC). The RRC program is administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to support communities as they prepare for new investment and development. It also makes communities eligible for more grants and other resources – but the certification process is time- and labor-intensive. As the City continues to takes steps towards RRC status, the LSCP will provide staff support to move the process forward.
This partnership represents a new way of doing business with and for the City of Ishpeming – and reflects the City’s forward-looking vision and a strong commitment to its future. We’re excited about the investment the City is making, and are honored to be partners in paving the way for economic prosperity in Ishpeming.