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MEDA Blog Archive

April 2021

Remote Ready Communities

How is your community positioned to take advantage of the emerging post-pandemic remote workforce?

The New Normal

Before COVID-19 upended workplace norms, around 3% of U.S. workers teleworked on a regular basis. COVID-related impacts have forced employers to rethink the ability to work from distance, and remote work has become the new norm for workers in nearly every industry. A University of Chicago analysis revealed that up to 34% of U.S. jobs can plausibly be performed at home.

Trends of U.S. workers looking to escape dense urban areas have begun to show up in real estate data. Suburban and rural communities are looking to capitalize on this switch by attracting remote or hybrid workers as part of a community and economic development strategy. Which workers are most likely to move? And what factors will attract these workers?

Remote Work is Factoring into Moving Decisions

A Pew Research poll found that one-in-five U.S. adults (22%) say they either changed their residence due to the pandemic or know someone who did. Early indicators for 2021 indicate that this year may be bigger for movers than the last. A recent poll found that 20% more Americans plan to move in 2021 than in 2020.

Factors like a lower cost of living, access to cultural amenities and outdoor recreation, and the ability to purchase a home are already driving young workers to relocate away from large cities. As remote work becomes the norm, suburban and rural areas that are already seeing an uptick could continue to grow and offer an attractive alternative to city living.

Competition for Remote Workers Will be Fierce

As communities look to be Remote Ready they need to evaluate broadband infrastructure, consider lifestyle amenities and create co-work, hybrid, or collision spaces, and offer tailored programs and services specifically for remote workers. With remote work increasingly becoming the new normal, communities that prioritize investments in creative initiatives will have a leg up in attracting the emerging post-pandemic remote workforce.

Click here to read the full blog.

Authored by Chris Worley, Analyst, Fourth Economy Consulting. To learn more about Fourth Economy's work, contact MEDA member Nicole Muise Kielkucki, Director of Economic Innovation, Fourth Economy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

March/April 2021

Extraordinary Opportunity for Women and Minorities to Build Their Career in Economic Development

Klohs Birgit 2020 CroppedWhen Birgit Klohs’ retirement from The Right Place, Inc., was announced in August 2020, MEDA wanted to honor her long-time, highly respected commitment to economic development. MEDA’s Board of Directors selected a fellowship for women and minority aspiring economic developers, which was appropriately assigned to MEDA’s Emerging Leaders Committee.

Upon receiving the award, Birgit said, “Increasing opportunities for women and people of color is critical to the future of the economic development profession and our state’s prosperity, and I look forward to seeing the success of future fellowship awardees.”

This Fellowship is very appropriate for Birgit, who was one of MEDA’s first three female members when she joined the Association in 1977. Today, there are many female leaders in economic development with room to grow. She has undoubtedly worked her way up! Upon retirement in 2021, there was an outpouring of respect for the work done that has made, The Right Place, Inc., “an envy of communities nationally.”

In February of 2021, she became MEDA’s first female Lifetime Members. Lifetime members have a history of accomplishments in economic development and contributions to MEDA.

Klohs, and many partners of The Right Place, Inc., worked hard to create an equitable business climate for minorities, with a recent example being the New Community Transformation Fund, which has raised nearly $10 Million to boost businesses owned by people of color in West Michigan. The fund expects to be $25 Million and expects to make the first investments later this year.

There is no time like the present to start building your career in economic development if you have a passion for business development, community growth, creating fantastic downtowns, building the workforce, or any of the activities the create a better quality of life for residents of our state.

Learn More About the Fellowship and Apply Today


The goal of the fellowship will be to increase women and minority participation in economic development in a way that supports MEDA’s membership, its committees, and the organization as a whole, by increasing opportunities for the education needed to build each recipient’s skills and abilities in economic development.

The fellowship can be utilized for training and professional development including, but not limited to:

  • Education: MEDA Programs, IEDC Programs, NDC Programs, Regional EDO Programs, MEDC/RRC Programs, MML Programs
  • Community Projects: Planning, Board Development, Program Development, Communications, Policy, and Research
  • Networking: MEDA Programs, Regional EDO Programs, Expos related to economic development
  • The first awardee is expected to be announced at MEDA’s 2021 Annual Meeting, which is scheduled to be in Grand Rapids.


The appropriate candidate will be a woman or minority who is looking to actively participate in economic development and needs assistance with the monetary aspect. The highest consideration for candidates applying for the fellowship will be given to early-career economic development professionals as demonstrated through a review of the candidate's resume and professional letters of support.


The awardee will receive a monetary amount that the MEDA subcommittee deems fit in response to the awardee’s application not to exceed $2,000. The awardee will receive the monetary award via expense reimbursement once the event/training/etc. is purchased. The Fellowship subcommittee will require the awardee to send in receipts and any other documents they deem fit in order to reimburse the awardee.

Please apply today!

Authored by Stephanie Carroll, Economic Development Manager, City of Auburn Hills; Cassandra Jorae, Director of Marketing, Communications, and Administration, Michigan Economic Developers Association; and Samantha Seimer, MPA, EDFP, Vice President, Economic Development Services, AKT Peerless Environmental Sevices

MEDA 2021 President's Report - Looking Ahead

February 2021

MEDA recently released its 2021 Annual Report. Below is a write-up from our 2021 President, James McBryde, about what we can look forward to after meeting the challenges from 2020. Some things are already taking place, so links are provided.

McBryde Photo 2020Dear Fellow MEDA Members,

Despite the crazy year, we have had with the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to maintain a robust MEDA membership level of 476 which is truly amazing. This is a credit to the hard work and dedication from our staff - John, Cassandra, and Taylor - as well as everyone serving on the Membership Committee and the Board of Directors. We all worked very hard this past year and the work has paid off!

While we are hoping to be able to hold in-person events as soon as possible, MEDA will continue to look at new ways to deliver education opportunities with outstanding webinars such as “Site Selection Best Practices for a Post- COVID World” on February 4. To accommodate our members, MEDA is making it easier for you to access digital economic development training through our webinar subscription service. This subscription service will allow you to pre-pay for access to live webinars and be able to view previously recorded webinars, such as “Conducting Virtual Site Visits” and “Managing an Economic Development Organization” to name a few.

We will hold our “Emerging Leaders Spring Training” as a virtual event on April 22, but we are planning to hold our Annual Meeting as an in-person event at the JW Marriott in Grand Rapids August 22-25. At the Annual Meeting, we will award our very first Birgit M. Klohs Fellowship. The goal of this fellowship is to increase women and minority participation in economic development in a way that supports MEDA’s membership, its committees, and the organization as a whole. This fellowship was named after Birgit Klohs, President & CEO, The Right Place, Inc., who first joined MEDA in 1977 as one of MEDA’s first three female members. Birgit recently announced her retirement which will take place on January 31, 2021, after many years of economic development leadership, and it’s appropriate that we honor her with the first Fellowship award in Grand Rapids

This year, we will continue to focus on Advocacy as we have in the past. As we have seen in the last few state budget cycles, many MEDC programs that are crucial to the work we do were cut or eliminated. It will be critically important this year for all members to talk to their state elected officials about the importance of economic development and how it helps the districts they serve as well as the state overall. Plus, we will be continuing to recognize state legislators who are helpful to our cause with our “Legislative Economic Development Champion Award” which was inaugurated last year.

Our success as an organization would not be possible without the engagement of you, our members. Even though we are all extremely busy in our daily work aiding Michigan’s economic growth, I am asking you for one simple thing this year: try to get involved in just one extra activity that will advance the success of our organization and economic development throughout the state. If you have not yet served on a committee or attended one of our events, try to do so this year.

Best Regards,

James McBryde
2021 MEDA Board President
President and CEO
Middle Michigan Development Corporation

MEDA 2020 President's Report

January 2021

I am pleased to say that 2020 is now past us and we can look forward to bright 2021. While 2020 was a very challenging year for everyone, MEDA has a lot of accomplishments to be proud of.

I want to thank our amazing staff - John, Cassandra, and Taylor - for not only being able to quickly adapt to the changing environment but continuing to provide MEDA members the education, tools, and networking opportunities they find valuable. They did an outstanding job this past year, adding new programming and providing events held either virtually or as a hybrid event like the Annual Meeting in Traverse City.

I appreciate the service of our Board for being available to participate in the extra meetings we held this past year. I would also like to thank three Board members who stepped down, after serving many years, from the Board to allow new members to participate: Monique Holliday-Bettie, Amy Clickner, and Dan Casey. Thank you for your support through the years. I would also like to welcome our three new Board members, who I know will serve the organization well: Mary Myers, John Wolf-Meyer, and Alan Weber. I look forward to working with you.

With the retirement of Birgit Klohs, MEDA created its first fellowship with a goal to increase women and minority participation in economic development. I want to thank Carolyn Bennett for the idea and for helping to organize the fundraising support to create the endowment. You can donate to the Birgit M. Klohs Fellowship from MEDA’s website. We will announce our first Fellowship recipient at our Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids.

The Advocacy Committee presented the first Legislative Economic Development Champion Awards to ten legislators for their work in championing economic development in their district and for the state as a whole.

The Board decided to host Happy Hours for members to provide an opportunity to discuss any topics they chose and provide an opportunity to network with fellow members.

After the Education Committee worked with staff on webinars, the Board decided to make this an ongoing form of education by creating a library of webinars that members can access for a low cost beginning in 2021. MEDA wants to assure that we offer a variety of opportunities and vehicles that deliver education to members.

At the end of 2019, we celebrated our highest numbers ever in membership. We are happy to say that the membership declined only slightly during the pandemic. Our financial position is also in very good shape as we begin 2021.

I am very pleased to welcome Jim McBryde as your next President and am confident that he will do a great job leading the Board in 2021. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your MEDA President during our 60th Anniversary and I look forward to a prosperous 2021.

Kimberly Marrone
2020 MEDA Board President
Economic Development and Communications Director
City of Oak Park 

To view the full 2020 Annual Report, click here.

Partnership News and Views: ‘Twas The Night Before Amy’s Christmas

Amy Clickner 2019December 2020

Well folks, one of my Christmas wishes came early this year. You all know Don Ryan of the Ryan Report, but what you may not know is that he is a founding member of the Lake Superior Community Partnership and a huge mentor of mine. Over the years, Don has gotten me out of my comfort zone more times than I can count and taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to.

If you are a regular of Marquette County’s Economic Club, you know that for many years at the December meeting, Don presented his entertaining and light hearted ‘Twas of the Night Before Christmas injecting a local flavor into it. A true tradition and something I had always hoped to create with Don one year. Well folks, while there sadly is no public presentation this year, Don did agree to make my wish come true. Enjoy!

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house

not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

In hopes that Santa Claus soon would be there.

And I in my kerchief and my hubby in his Cubs cap

had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.

As we laid there nestled all snug in our bed

visions from the past year danced in my head.

It had been a tough year because of COVID-19.

For many it was the most difficult they’d seen.

And as I lay tossing and turning in bed

I recalled what my letter to Santa had said.

Dear Santa I wrote, this year is different indeed.

And the people in my community have so much they need.

We still wish for toys for the kids in our town,

especially for the families whose luck has turned down.

Many have lost jobs and are hurting this year.

When making your rounds please add extra cheer.

And Santa please keep our health care workers in mind.

They deserve the very nicest gifts you can find.

They have worked very hard to keep us safe as can be,

They deserve a merry Christmas I’m sure you agree.

And Santa remember our businesses in town.

For parts of the year many were shut down.

They found creative ways to serve the customers they see

so please place some special gifts under their tree.

There are many others Santa, like all frontliners and schools.

NMU, local governments and the workers with tools.

The people who work in our stores every day,

please have some nice gifts for them on your sleigh.

Don’t forget our non-profits who serve above self.

May they find ways to maintain organizational health.

And Santa, while it’s been a difficult year,

in some ways we’ve come closer with those we hold dear.

Our families have spent much more time with each other.

Our sisters, our brothers our father our mother.

But there are those we have missed as they live far away,

and it’s just not safe to travel and meet up that way.

And there are friends and co-workers who once gave us bliss.

Now meetings, hand shaking and friendly hugs we miss.

Church, weddings and celebratory gatherings are small.

We’re looking forward to the days when we can have them all.

Yes, Santa we are almost through it and it has been a tough year.

In the months ahead please grant us some good news and cheer.

And with that, sleep was coming and I drifted off to dream

of Christmas trees and Santa Claus and his flying reindeer team.

And in my dream I heard him say as he drove out of sight,

Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.


a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.

July 2020

We continue to move our economy and community forward on a path to “recovery” from the devastating effects of COVID-19. I would argue, however, that based on the true definition of “recovery” what we are experiencing is better characterized as a “rebirth”. Why? Because returning to a normal state, pre-COVID is certainly not happening anytime soon.

I also use “rebirth” because of how innovative and creative our businesses and organizations continue to be to meet the new regulations, customer expectations, employee needs … all while keeping their entity running. Have you been to a restaurant, salon, medical appointment, or small retailer lately? If you have, then you certainly have experienced the new normal of such activities.

This past weekend I was showing our house guests around the area. Hitting Marquette’s downtown, I was surprised how busy it was. Cars in hotel parking lots, a busy Farmer’s Market, and people bustling in and out of storefronts. But I felt very comfortable. People were masked and patiently lined up if a store was at its maximum capacity. Many diners were enjoying the beautiful weather outside.

Stores were properly signed with mask reminders, plexiglass galore, and directional arrows if need be. Employees were all masked up, monitoring capacity and sanitizing tables and countertops in between customers. Most menus are disposable or double as a placemat. Hand sanitizers can be found around every corner.

Stopping for a beer on a beautiful day? Plenty of outdoor space, plexiglass, masks required, and even a wristband if you have heard the “safety” spiel already!  

Dinner was pizza on the west end, and again, wearing my mask, I picked up our to-go order with a cashless transaction and single-use pen. I have had my haircut, grocery shopped, paid for gas inside, had a physical and even attended church during this rebirth phase and I have to say how proud I am to be from a community who takes the necessary precautions to protect all. Does it feel like we’re back to normal? Of course not. But it is our new normal to be embraced.

And, of course, with the rebirth has come curbside pickup, more delivery options, more website and phone apps for shopping, additional outdoor seating, and cocktails to go if the timing is not right for you to go inside.

Yes, we will get through this and we will do it together. Don’t forget the deadline for the Michigan Business Restart grants is August 5. Get your application in!

Reflecting on the Past Year with MEDA

December 2019

Reflecting back on the past year, I am both honored and humbled to be part of a truly amazing year for MEDA. The support of our sponsors, committee chairs and vice-chairs, members, and staff have been wonderful. Your participation in MEDA is critical and essential to the overall success of our organization. We are looking forward to developing new programs.

2019 was incredible for many reasons. Under the leadership of President Justin Horvath, we reached and then surpassed our membership goal, we held our Annual Meeting in the Upper Peninsula, and programs and training sessions like IEDC’s Real Estate Development and Reuse have had record attendance. This level of engagement will continue to strengthen and advance MEDA’s mission.

Our Annual Meeting will be in Traverse City, August 18-21, 2020, at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. The planning committee is hard at work on the content and you will be seeing information come out in the next few months about the event. You will not want to miss it.

Thank You and Cheers to 2020!

Stephanie Carroll, Manager, Business Development and Community Relations at the City of Auburn Hills, was MEDA's Board Secretary in 2019. She is also the Co-Chair of the Emerging Leaders Committee and has served as Board President in 2016.

Amy Clickner 2019MEDA Comes to the U.P. for the First Time in Over 20 Years

September 2019

The Michigan Economic Developers Association (MEDA), founded in 1960, exists to advance economic development throughout Michigan, and increase the individual member’s effectiveness in the economic development profession. The association’s goal is to provide a variety of services and programs that will enhance ability and skills in economic development. Through education, legislative updates, public relations and networking, MEDA makes it possible for economic development professionals statewide to accomplish their goals more efficiently and effectively. (

I am a proud member and former President of the Michigan Economic Developer’s Association or MEDA. Through this involvement, I have attended many educational conferences and created a strong network of peers and mentors across the state of Michigan. In this business, you can never stop learning as things are constantly changing.

When I started in this profession, it was all about business attraction and incentives. Now as economic developers, we are called upon to play a role in talent development, business services, creating a sense of place and equity issues. As the business world continues to move toward a triple bottom line (people, planet, profits), they want to measure their performance in more than just profit. Social and environmental issues continue to rise up as part of the way business should be done and we as economic developers need to learn how to support this too.

But I digress. I was speaking of MEDA and the educational opportunities it provides for economic developers. Each year they have an annual conference that draws practitioners from across the state. This conference has not been held in the U.P. in over 20 years, until a few weeks ago, when it took place in Marquette.

The host committee and MEDA staff worked hard to put together a top notch agenda, broke records in sponsors and sponsorships and showed 150 economic developers from across the state why the Upper Peninsula is the purest of Pure Michigan.

There are so many “thank yous” to share including those who stepped up to sponsor the conference financially including Upper Peninsula Collaborative Development Council, Laborers’ International Union of North America – Local 1329, Northern Michigan University, Travel Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, Michigan Technological University, Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development Commission/Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation, Enbridge, Inc., Envirologic Technologies, Inc., Northern Initiatives, American Transmission Company, U.P. Building Trades Council, Upper Peninsula Economic Development Alliance, Upper Peninsula Construction Council, Lake Superior Community Partnership, Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Regional Commission, Innovate Marquette SmartZone, InvestUP, Luce County Economic Development Corporation, Pictured Rock Cruises and Upward Talent Council/Michigan Works!.

We also provided three different tours for our visitors. Thank you to Cleveland-Cliffs, Inc., PotlatchDeltic and the Marquette DDA for hosting tours. And don’t forget about the local subject matter experts that peppered the agenda throughout the few days including Laura Reilly from Kendricks, Bordeau, Keefe, Seavoy & Larsen, P.C., Matt Johnson from Eagle Mine, Emma Cooke from Enbridge, Inc., Patrick Bloom from Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., LR Swadley from Swadley Development LLC, Ray Johnson from Invent@NMU, Bob Jacquart from Jacquart Fabric Products, Pasi Lautala from Michigan Technological University and Alex Palzewicz from Taste the Local Difference. Our kick off keynote was Governor Whitmer and the sessions tackled important issues like recreational marijuana, housing, talent, mining, tariffs and entrepreneurship. Whew! We squeezed that all in with some time left to see the sights.

The Holiday Inn hosted the event with rooms and conference center, Checker Transport handled the transportation and receptions were held at the Landmark Inn, Ore Dock Brewing Company and the Marquette Regional History Center. Feedback on all aspects of the conference was positive and highly ranked in the follow up survey.

It was great to see the region through the eyes of our visitors, many who brought their families and stayed for the week or weekend. They constantly commented on how friendly our community was and that customer service was top notch. Of course, many pledged to be back!

Again, a huge thank you to everyone who played a role in and around the conference. Together we hit it out of the park!

Authored by Amy Clickner, CEcD, CFRM, Chief Executive Officer, Lake Superior Community Partnership.

volunteer 1Strong Community is Built on Volunteerism

August 2019



noun a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting to the Ishpeming Rotary Club. What you may not know is that Rotary was one of the places I “cut my teeth” in the volunteer world. From chairing Seafood Fest with my good Rotarian friend, Dr. Chris Wilkinson, to presiding as president one year, I truly believe I “took” more than I gave with what I learned about leadership and service.

While the saying goes “love makes the world go ’round” I would argue that so do volunteers. Think about it. How often do you interact with a volunteer or volunteer yourself?

In our community, volunteers are part of what makes us so special. From an event perspective, they would not be possible if it wasn’t for people giving their time. International Food Fest, Relay for Life, Ore to Shore, Iron Range Roll, to name a few, all rely on volunteers.

Let’s look at our school systems. Booster clubs, concession stands, classroom support, and chaperones allow parents and other caregivers the opportunity to support their local schools. And for students, a variety of clubs, organizations and elected positions give them a taste of giving back even before adulthood. Northern Michigan University provides students with ample volunteer opportunities including the Superior Edge program that has a component of becoming an engaged, involved citizen.

The Lake Superior Community Partnership is a nonprofit organization and we have a volunteer board of directors that help lead and support our strategic direction. Our task forces and committees are volunteers and give their time in areas such as the Lake Superior Leadership Academy, transportation, government relations, and marketing. Our LSCP Foundation is also surrounded by great volunteer support.

Think of the number of boards and committees in and around the county that are populated with people giving back. United Way, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, various foundations, churches and service clubs all require donated time to be successful.

Oftentimes when we look for organizations to provide our time and talent to, we forget about the public sector or elected positions. Think county board, city/township council, state or federal representatives, school board, planning commission, parks, and recreation board and the long list of others required for a government to do business. While I realize these types of positions may sound more intimidating, making sure we have strong elected officials serving the needs of our citizens is critical.

So how can you get involved?

  • Be a guest at a service club meeting
  • Attend your city council or planning commission meeting
  • Research organizations in our area that spark your interest
  • Ask friends, family, and coworkers about their involvement
  • Check out the “Volunteer Opportunities” page of The Mining Journal
  • Talk to event coordinators and ask how you can help

I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest applying to the Lake Superior Leadership Academy, which is currently recruiting for the Class of 2020! The academy provides you an opportunity to address pertinent community needs, strengthen your leadership abilities and encourage you to personally commit to taking on new leadership roles in the community.

Really, the key is to jump right in and get involved! You will never regret giving your time, talent and treasure to something that betters the community in which you live. Be the example for others to follow.

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, the ability to continue learning, a 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:

Louisville, Kentucky:

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:

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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