Discovering and applying new and innovative economic development tools, models, policies, and programs
Creating Jobs and Wealth in Distressed Michigan Communities

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The REI Innovation Fellows Program is seeking applicants to incorporate the tools, models, and policies identified in Co-Learning Projects, or new ideas, into practice in communities around Michigan. The Innovation Fellows program was established in 2016 to attract and support top champions in communities and organizations to tackle the tough economic development issues that our distressed communities face every day. Innovation Fellows provide on-the-ground support and coordination to move concepts to actions, implementing new economic development tools, models, and policies. These Fellowships are funded up to $10,000 through a competitive award process.


2023 Innovation Fellow, Robert Carson, AICP, Regional Director of Community Development with Networks Northwest, examined the ongoing problem in Northwest Lower Michigan’s township government structure and proposed a possible solution. Robert states that much of the "10-county Northwest planning region (Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Manistee, Missaukee, Wexford) is experiencing rampant growth. As a result, there are myriad planning themes that the largely rural area has not had to contend with in decades due to increased demands on factors such as land use, housing, transportation, permitting and conservation. Municipal leaders have had to face land use planning challenges most often experienced in places like Grand Rapids or Ann Arbor, established centers of commerce and population." Rob examined the trends in the planning profession that call for greater technical professionalism in the region and the current governmental structures that are making it difficult for this professionalism to exist widely in Northwest Michigan. 


Learn more about the 2024 Call for Innovation Fellows by visiting . The application deadline is on December 8, 2023. Please contact Jenan Jondy at for more information.

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