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2024: A Regional Model for Small Business Prosperity

Co Learning Plan Author - 2024

Authors: Robert Carson, AICP and Zachary Vega


This is a case study of four Michigan Works! program services in Northwest Lower Michigan. This study will provide a comprehensive review of the program’s small business development services and their impact in statistically underserved communities through descriptive statistical analyses and stakeholder interviews. The researchers will identify the regional referral methods that client small businesses have found most effective in their development, develop a survey instrument that identifies program strengths, areas for improvement, and financial impact, and how these methods could be replicated throughout Michigan. While Michigan Works! has been around since 1996, there are very few analyses of its overall effect on small business referrals from a regional perspective. Research into the programs would help to identify strengths and weaknesses and could help other regional entities such as chambers of commerce, county governments, and industry leaders to potentially replicate the programs’ referral methods. These best practices would be influential in helping distressed local communities build their economic bases.

Author Information

Robert Carson, AICP, is the Regional Director of Community Development with Networks Northwest. He has participated in and led many processes, throughout his career, leading to technical document development. Recently developed guides and documents include Community Master Plans, Recreation Plans, Corridor Studies, Zoning Guides, Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies and Strategic Plans. The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) was a process led by the Networks Northwest Community Development Department and was completed in early 2021 with approval by the Networks Northwest Board and the Economic Development Administration. Other experience details significant partnership with State and Local Economic Development Experts through participation in State and Federal grant programs and certifications: Community Development Block Grant Programs, Brownfield Plan and Development Programs, local Downtown Development Authority TIF approvals, and other project specific grant support such as DNR Trust Fund Grants and FEMA Hazard Mitigation Project Grants. In addition to experience with navigation and community certification through the State’s Redevelopment Ready Communities Program.

Zach Vega

Zach Vega, AICP, is a Community Planner with Network Northwest. Zach has led various planning efforts with local units of government across the state of Michigan including: master plans, recreation plans, economic development strategies and coastal resilience plans. He has contributed essays and research for Planning & Zoning News, the Michigan Association of Planning and MSU Extension. Zach has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Saginaw Valley State University and a Master of Urban & Regional Planning from Michigan State University.