Equitable and sustainable economic development requires leveraging community engagement, building guiding principles, and advocating for policies that promote and support needed change. On March 7th, I and the Assistant Director, Mary ZumBrunnen attended MEDA’s Capitol Day which consisted of various speakers and elected state officials who addressed programs and Michigan policy priorities in economic development. Events like these can help to connect economic developers to leaders within state agencies, programs, and provides an opportunity to educate policy makers on key issues.
Repeated policy themes throughout the program were the importance of leveraging community in economic development, right to work laws, marrying housing to economic development, and the need to increase the state’s population. Discussions on the panels also included business attraction, incentives, the varying needs of communities, and considering ways that communities can invest in their infrastructure.
Eric Fredrick, Chief Connectivity Officer for the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office, spoke on how the newly created MIHI Office is working to lessen the digital divide in the state. Michigan is expecting to receive more than $1.6 billion from the federal government to expand high-speed internet service and achieve digital equity. MIHI is seeking to connect with communities across the state to hear their unique needs in getting connected and has launched a ‘MI Connected Future’ listening tour: https://www.michigan.gov/leo/bureaus-agencies/mihi/miconnectedfuture
Additional sessions/panels took place with State House and Senate committee leaders, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), and Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) on new economic development initiatives/programs, challenges and priorities, and differing opinions on how we get there.