In my almost eight years of working for the Municipal League there are certain things I’ve been tagged with. One of them is sharing news clips with my colleagues every Sunday morning. Although this practice has been more inconsistent lately, it stems from having those few hours on Sunday morning to myself, while the rest of the family attends church. Well its Sunday morning, they’re again at church and in a variation on that theme I’m writing a blog…a different kind of sharing but sharing nonetheless.
It has been another busy week of traveling around the state to see members and give presentations on what will help to bring prosperity to Michigan communities. It has been closed by a great trip on family weekend at my youngest daughter’s college, Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana.
Muncie is not unlike any other mid-sized Midwestern city or Michigan city for that matter, seeking to redefine itself in the post-industrial economy. This morning, I seem to have found “the” college café (The Cup) just off the south side of campus where there is a good deal of student housing. A mix of students and others are coming in to get their Sunday morning refreshments and begin the recovery from a Saturday night of activity.
Ball State University (yes its named after the Ball brothers, more famous for their canning jars than anything else) is beginning to work more and more with the surrounding neighborhoods and city at large on redevelopment. This is not unlike the “town-gown” relationship building we are seeing across the country. And while some have recently panned the economic growth from such relationships, I would remind readers of the “its not any one thing” philosophy of economic growth. Certainly, those communities that contain a community college or 4 year university within their borders would be remiss to not establish a “town-gown” relationship as part of a broader effort on creating long-term sustainable economic growth and prosperity.
As for how I started this past week, well that was in Newaygo. Located north of Grand Rapids, this community of just under 2,000 is situated in a county where nearly half of the land is contained within a national forest. And, like any other small town (or any town for that matter), Newaygo is looking to redefine itself. Toward that end, they have put together a very impressive business incubator for entrepreneurs right on the main street in downtown. Its called “The Stream”, an appropriate name given Newaygo’s location on the Muskegon River. As for the “they”, it includes not just local officials, but other community leaders from non-profits, the private sector and community foundation. Over the last couple of months I’ve had the opportunity to get to know two of them, Sandi Williams, Director of the Center for Nonprofit Housing in Fremont and Paul Wishka with TrueNorth Community Services.
Their unbridled enthusiasm for the work they’re doing, on the ground in Newaygo and communities across the county is infectious. One step at a time, one project at a time, they are building a bridge as they walk on it, a journey filled with risks for sure, but one they know they need to take if they are to create a future of sustainable prosperity for themselves and their community. It’s the same journey being taken by countless others in communities across our state. All of it causes me to be inspired, and makes me proud to be working for an organization and with people who are helping to move Michigan forward.