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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In this podcast, REI Research Assistant, Emma Gilbert, talks with 2022 Innovation Fellow, Tony Willis, Chief Equity Development Officer for LEAP. Willis' 2022 Fellowship project is entitled "Exploring Communal and Cooperative Investment Models for Lansing." A summary of the project is seen below. Watch Palmer's full presentation at the 2022 Innovate Michigan! Summit on August 18th, 2022!

The United Way, in collaboration with other philanthropic institutions, has created a new measure known as ALICE, which stands for “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed”, and represents the growing number of households in our communities that are above the federal poverty limit but do not earn enough to cover all their monthly household necessities. Contributing to this issue is growing wealth gap between Black and White households. It is imperative that economic developers create and deploy new programs that can assist those who are most susceptible to financial misfortune and economic immobility. Equitable Economic Development unlocks the full potential of the local economy by dismantling barriers and expanding opportunities for low-income people and communities of color. Through accountable public action and investment, it grows quality jobs and increases entrepreneurship, ownership, and wealth. The result is a stronger, more competitive community. This Innovation Fellowship will focus on exploring communal and cooperative investment/business models, specifically worker-owner cooperatives and community investment trust, that could be deployed in the Lansing region to combat the economic instability that has become prevalent within the last decade. Both models provide pathways for increased income and asset acquisition that position owners/community members with a greater chance to grow wealth.  

Download the transcript