Examines regional economic and demographic trends, analyzes economic development problems and opportunities, highlights community and private sector partnerships, and creates an economic development plan for a group of five Michigan counties.

The plan provides a five-year economic development strategy for Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, and St. Joseph counties in southcentral Michigan, culminating in a prioritized list of projects to tackle. Written by the Upjohn Institute, which was contracted by the Southcentral Michigan Planning Council (SMPC), it aims to “think regionally about opportunities and concerns” (p.4) for the area’s economic development strategy. The Upjohn Institute facilitated meetings between different county stakeholders to come up with the plan. This involved conducting “35 one-on-one interviews and 7 focus groups” (p.4). Overall, the plan “has been prepared to complement and enhance ongoing economic development efforts in the region. It was carefully constructed to not duplicate existing economic development activities, while at the same time providing a strategic plan that will guide public and private stakeholders in developing a sustainable, diverse, and growing regional economy. It is based on a careful analysis that considers both quantitative and qualitative statistics on the region” (p.4).

In sum, the Upjohn Institute worked with the SMPC steering committee to “develop a plan that would identify” (p.7):

“1. the necessary investments required to support ongoing efforts to attract private investment into the area that would generate jobs in the region; and

“2. the solutions to economic development problems facing the region because of the outflow of resources, including talent as well as production and service activity.…Issues include lowering high school dropout rates, decreasing the outmigration of college graduates from the region’s university or colleges, and assisting new entrepreneurial activities” (p.7).

 (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“Based on the qualitative and quantitative analysis, the…Steering Committee identified a Plan of Action that defines and implements the goals, objectives, and strategies of the economic development plan” (p.37). The overarching goals of this plan of action include the following: • “Develop a skilled workforce in the region” (p.37). • “Make downtown areas attractive places to live, work, and play” (p.38). • “Consolidate/streamline/share government services” (p.38). • “Improve infrastructure in the region” (p.39). • “Promote Brownfield redevelopment” (p.39). The plan also identifies smaller objectives and strategies that will help the region obtain these broader goals. Using the goals, objectives, and strategies as criteria, the plan ranks “53 projects that were submitted by the region’s counties, cities, townships, and economic development organizations” in terms of how well they fit with the economic development plan (p.39). “After all of the projects were reviewed; the steering committee reviewed those projects that earned a high priority and identified those that are of vital importance....It is important to note that projects that are on this list were selected because of their economic importance to their community and the region. The plan provides a ranked list of these projects, project descriptions, which include costs, and maps that highlight the location of each project. (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)