Last week, I had the privilege to present to the Illinois Rural Community Economic Development Conference, a statewide event bringing together community leaders and representatives of state and federal government and academia. They invited me to share Michigan’s lessons from our decade-plus of focus on place-based redevelopment.
I met an enthusiastic group of advocates, representing communities like Strasburg, Macomb and Canton, as well as folks from bigger cities like Springfield and Peoria. They are tackling many of the same problems League members are: lack of resources and capacity, a rapidly changing retail and real estate market, talent attraction and retention.
It was rewarding to see the commonalities, of course, but the overwhelming feeling I had was one of pride in what we have collectively done in Michigan. Programs like PlacePlans, Public Spaces, Community Places and Redevelopment Ready Communities are world-class models that our peers in Illinois, and many other states, envy. For that we can be proud of not just the leadership of the League and its members, but also of our friends on the Sense of Place Council and our partners in state government, consulting firms, non-profit organizations and philanthropies. It may sometimes feel that we have miles to go – and we do – but it’s worth stopping and remembering how far we’ve come.