Why Place Matters

Posted on August 15, 2022 by Morgan Schwanky

Placemaking has continued to show the importance of creating a quality of life that attracts people to a community. This draw allows for better economic development. Without place, there is no community – no development.

The Michigan Municipal League is a firm believer of building community wealth. We have taken placemaking and added an equity lens, resulting in Community Wealth Building.

We wanted to highlight a recent Q&A published in Reimagining the Civic Commons: Quality of Life and Place as Economic Development. It features five questions with Amanda Weinstein and John Austin.

Weinstein is a professor at the University of Akron and an economist. Austin is the Director of the Michigan Economic Center.

We wanted to share some key takeaways from this article that help show the importance of building community wealth, and highlight some of the ways that Michigan is attracting people to the state.

The following are excerpts from the Q&A:

Amanda Weinstein [AW]: In the Midwest, our lakes and our rivers used to be how we transported goods, and they were instrumental in how our communities grew. As transportation costs decreased dramatically over the decades, other factors are driving the success of communities in the Midwest and around the country. Incomes have increased, which has increased demand for living in beautiful and interesting places. That means the places that are doing well economically are the places that can offer residents a nice, comfortable home and place to live in. This has been a long gradual shift away from focusing on business factors like transportation costs and towards making your community a nice place to live, which allows you to attract the skilled people that companies want.

John Austin [JA]: In the Great Lakes and Midwest region, we’ve got 10,000 miles of Great Lakes coastline, and thousands and thousands of smaller lakes and rivers. Leveraging these natural assets is a powerful economic development path. When you clean up the industrial waterfronts and create public access in multiple forms, it makes a wonderfully enjoyable community, a community that people want to live in. People want to walk along the river or the lakefront. It’s a very powerful engine for community revitalization, as our research demonstrated, to reclaim these former industrial areas and reconnect communities to the beautiful lake, the river, the waterfront.

One of Community Wealth Building’s pillars is sustainability, and both Weinstein and Austin bring up some key facts that illustrate how Michigan’s natural resources are an important asset to the state. As we as a state continue to deal with environmental justice issues such as climate change, having access to the amount of fresh water that we have will be vital. This asset allows and will continue to allow us to sustain not only ourselves but also our various wildlife and ecosystems that all play an integral part within our thriving state.

Additional to the sustainability component, our access to fresh water also attracts people to the state of Michigan for other reasons. Being within close access to water is attractive for those whom enjoy recreational water activities such as swimming, boating, fishing, etc. Having that access encourages people to want to move to the state.

Michigan has many qualities that make it a place that people want to live. As a state, we have embraced placemaking and now Community Wealth Building to help us utilize the resources that we have in the ways that will most benefit those who live here.

To learn more about what was discussed in this Q&A, you can click here to read the full article.

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