You may have heard by now that food carts are all the buzz in some cities across the country. The one that probably takes the cake is Portland, OR, with over 500 scattered throughout the city. But a little bit of this craze is coming to Michigan and for good reason.
Mark’s Carts was the first true stationary “food cart pod” (a grouping of food carts) in Michigan, opening two years ago in Ann Arbor. With eight individually owned food carts serving a diverse array of food from early spring to late fall, it has proven to be a magnet for townies, the business community, and students who want to enjoy delicious local food and an informal outdoor communal seating experience.
But it’s not just about the food! Well, okay, it’s mostly about the food -- but it’s so much more. For the guests, it’s the whole experience of trying different foods in a casual outdoor setting with an opportunity for spontaneous social interactions. For the vendors, it is an affordable entry into the food business which can be an incubator to try out new recipes and marketing strategies and to develop a loyal following before they move on to a more permanent establishment.
That is exactly what happened to one very successful food cart called The Lunch Room. They tried out different fares on their vegan menu over the course of two years, ( while occasionally providing some musical offerings and food tasting contests as well). Among the favorites: barbecue tofu sandwiches, Pad Tai and their hard to resist cookies. Building on their success, they plan to open a more permanent restaurant in the Kerrytown area, one of the most vibrant gathering places in Ann Arbor.
It is just this sort of organic entrepreneurial creativity that not only positively impacts the local economy, but contributes to a community's unique identity and vibrancy, and emotionally connects people to their place!
Colleen Layton is Director of Policy Development for the Michigan Municipal League. She can be reached at 734.669.6320 or by firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City of Farmington Hills and Eastern Michigan University recently hosted a conference to discuss the creation of a community arts certification program, which would formally certify students who wish to pursue a career in administering cultural art programs. The League was invited, along with the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, America for the Arts, Mercedes Benz and the Kresge Foundation, to participate on a panel to discuss the economic and social reasons for supporting the arts . A certification program would not only better prepare an inidividual to administer arts and culural programs in a community, but it would demonstrate and elevate the importance of arts as an economic development strategy. With a passionate group of attendees representing all walks of the arts, there was little debate about its economic importance and contribution to the vibrancy of communities. Following the conference, a committee met to start working out the details for the program.
It’s important that we continue to have discussions around arts and culture as a crucial economic development tool. The League’s Center for 21st Century Communities has identified arts and culture as one of 8 key assets, which are critical to creating and maintaining vibrant communities and regions, attracting talent and providing a quality of life. Numbers don’t lie. Michigan depends on the creative state of our economy. Learn more about the impact here. For every $1 Michigan invests in arts and culture, $51 is pumped back into the state’s economy! We can’t afford NOT to support arts and culture. After a decade of unprecedented cuts, (over a 90% decrease from 2002-2010), the cultural arts is finally seeing a rebound.
Stay tuned for further updates on the arts certification program!
Colleen Layton is Director of Policy Development for the Michigan Municipal League. She can be reached at 734-69-6320 or at email@example.com
More and more communities are realizing the importance of providing safe walkable and bikable options for their residents for a multitude of reasons. Not only do biking and walking offer great recreational opportunities, but they promote a healthy life style, and can provide an alternative to the car as a way of getting around.
Each year, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) makes available training opportunities that support the creation of walkable and bikable communities. Training is offered to MDOT staff, county and local agency planners, engineers and other community officials. Training is typically offered for free, but does require a certain level of commitment of staff and resources from the partnering host community.
If you are interested in hosting one of these training sessions, please see attached flyer. Training Opportunities for MDOT.pdf (2.10 mb) The deadline is March 23rd!
Colleen Layton is Director of Policy Development for the Michigan Municipal League. She can be reached at 734-669-6320 or by firstname.lastname@example.org
The importance of integrating arts and culture in every aspect of community life, cannot be overstated. It is also one of the 8 assets of the League’s Center for 21st Century Communities. Arts and cultural programming is a key economic development strategy that can define a community, foster an entrpreneurial environment and make it a distinctive, special place.
To elevate the importance of arts and culture, an exciting new initiative taking place in Michigan is the creation of a certification program to train professional arts programmers. You can be a part of this important undertaking by joining other arts leaders, recreation professionals and government administrators in an in-depth panel discussion on revenue-generating programs. This will take place on Friday, March 23 from 9:00 am -11:30 am. Sponsored by Eastern Michigan University (Communication, Media & Theatre Arts) and Farmington Hills (Special Services Department Cultural Arts Division), this program will offer a unique opportunity to be at the ground floor of discussions around a community arts certification program. The League has been invited to be one of the participants on the panel. Space is limited, so sign up here!
Colleen Layton is Director of Policy Development for the Michigan Municipal League. She can be reached at 734-669-6320 or by email@example.com.