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MEDA Board of Directors Blog Archive

Best Practices in Economic Development from Experienced Leaders

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, ability to continue learning, 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: www.flagshipopportunityzone.com

Louisville, Kentucky: https://louisvilleky.gov/government/louisville-forward/opportunity-zones-louisville

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: www.theopportunityexchange.com.

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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