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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Current Projects

Innovation Fellows
(Co-Implementation Plans)

  • 2023: Collaborative Partnership Models: A Case for Increased Capacity and Efficiency

    Robert Carson

    Collaboration across levels of government is perceived to provide economic and community-wide benefits. Inherent capacity issues, particularly in rural communities are thought to be a hindrance to development application review, approval and permitting processes, further compounded by the complexities of navigation of statutes by local units of government, when managing approval body structure, operation and oversight. This Innovation Fellowship project proposes a research methodology to gain information and data concerning collaborative service partnerships between regional planning entities and local units of government.  

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  • 2023: Benefits of Worker-Owned Cooperative Business Development for Low-Income Residents in Michigan

    Margo Dalal

    Introducing incentive and support programs for worker ownership in Michigan can preserve local jobs as business owners retire and increase wealth-building opportunities in low-income communities statewide. Although there is ample research to support the economic and social benefits of work ownership, more research is needed on the public perception of worker ownership from both business owners and employees and small business technical assistance providers to create successful state and city worker ownership initiatives. This Innovation Fellowship will leverage the Detroit Community Wealth Fund as the state’s only loan fund that finances democratically owned and operated cooperative businesses and the only cooperative business incubator. 

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Co-Learning Plans

  • 2023: Opportunity or Betrayal?: The Promise and Perils of Electric Mobility

    Mark Wilson, Dr. Zeenat Kotval-Karamchandani, Shane Wilson

    The growing adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) carries many potential benefits for sustainability and mobility, yet not all residents and communities may benefit equally. New technologies disrupt current systems and behaviors that may include uneven impacts on communities based on income, race, identity, and location. This proposal will examine the social implications of EVs for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) residents of Michigan, both at the state level and in urban/rural areas of concentration.  In particular, the focus will be access to the benefits of EVs (mobility, employment) and experience of disadvantages such as environmental damage and health.

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  • 2023: Leveraging the Planning Process to Create a Model of Engagement for Communities in Need

    Dr. John (Jake) Parcell

    Leveraging the planning process to improve regional efforts in communities with a high percentage of ALICE residents can be difficult due to a lack of capacity. This Co-Learning Plan focuses on the REI categorical areas of 21st century communications and resiliency planning by developing a model for organizations can use to make the planning process operate more effectively for communities who lack the technical and institutional capacity to achieve their greatest results. This will be accomplished through a rigorous review of best practices and a Delphi Study of volunteer officials from commissions to identify ways to improve the planning process. 

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  • 2023: Making Ends Meet: Women’s Work, the Care Sector and Regional Informal Economies: Detroit

    Dr. Louise Jezierski, Dr. Sejuti Das Gupta

    This Co-Learning Plan examines how women workers and employers navigate the informal care and personal service sectors of the Detroit metropolitan region, focusing on immigrant and adjacent neighborhoods. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic-based economic crisis has impacted women with layoffs in service sector jobs or leaving to meet family care needs. Women engage the labor market informally through social networks and “brokerage institutions” including neighborhood institutions, e.g. temples, churches, and schools, to find work and household services. The research design employs mixed methodologies - archival data analysis and in-depth interviews - to map connective networks between formal and informal work that sustains a circular economy in greater Detroit. 

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Student-Led, Faculty-Guided Technical Assistance

  • 2023: Crowdfunding Capital Raises

    Dr. Dirk Colbry

    Dr. Dirk Colbry, MSU Director of Graduate Recruiting, Department of Computational Mathematics, Science, and Engineering, undergrad students in his Winter 2023 semester courses, and Chris Miller, Board Chair of the National Coalition for Community Capital (NC3) will secure and analyze data to set a baseline of community impact by projects funded by community capital raises. This work recognizes that while the need for data is pressing, the demand has come more from the traditional investment and venture capital side of the investment crowdfunding world, not the community side.

    Specifically, the data that will be examined will be with a framework that highlights the impact on ALICE populations on economically distressed communities, on RRC communities, and on Opportunity Zones. Engagement with economic development districts and helping them and others with data and technical assistance. This work seeks to demonstrate how this tool works to build stronger, more equitable communities, and to help even more communities create vibrant local economies through investment and ownership.

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  • 2023: MSU Urban and Regional Planning Practicum Course

    Dr. Kotval and Community Partners

    Below is the summary of the six SLFG projects and team members.

    Lansing North Grand River Avenue Corridor Study:

    Team | Dan Fallon, James Maher, Joe Pezzotti, Kade Peck, Mitch Robinson

    The Lansing Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) is seeking to revitalize the North Grand River Avenue Corridor, a 3.3-mile stretch of roadway to promote economic redevelopment within the area. The LEDC has further identified three vacant parcels along the corridor that are in need of redevelopment. This study analyzes the corridor’s socio-economic, zoning/land use, and transportation data, paired with community input to determine the existing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) of the corridor with the goal of presenting best use scenarios for the identified parcels that would best serve the community.

    Shiawassee County Development Process Analysis:

    Team | Jack Greenstein, Michael Jones, Shruti Nahar, CJ Sivak

    The Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership (SEDP) is looking to provide a resource for prospective developers and local governments regarding development processes within the 17 distinct planning jurisdictions. This analysis included a socio-economic profile, structured interviews with local government officials, and comparative analysis of the site plan review, rezoning, special use permitting, and variance processes across the county. Recommendations highlight areas for making pursuing new development in Shiawassee County more efficient for developers and more effective for local governments.

    Conant Gardens Neighborhood Revitalization Study:

    Team | Felicia French-Croll, Lingxi Chen, Danna Gutierrez, Alayna Offredi, Shangrui Zhu

    Conant Gardens Neighborhood Development Corporation (CGNDC) is looking for a strategic plan that can inform actions for neighborhood revitalization. This project analyzes the neighborhood’s demographics, socioeconomic characteristics and its housing supply to give a comprehensive neighborhood profile, and a synthesized analysis of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). The recommendations provided reflect a strategic prioritization for actions, and focus on ensuring strategic connections, partnerships and community involvement for CGNDC.

    Review of the Benefits of Parks and an Inventory of Parks in Benzie County, MI:

    Team | Mary Kate Bejma, Conor Warren, Michael Wilkinson, Xinyi Yao, Heather Zeigler

    Benzie County, as part of their 2019-2024 recreation and culture plan has hired the MSU practicum team to complete a literature review collection and map brochure of Benzie’s parks to support their augment for creating a recreational department. Benzie is located in northwest Michigan and has 25 miles of lake Michigan coastline. The county would like to utilize its natural beauty to promote tourism and recreational activities for long term residents and seasonal visitors alike.

    Scottville Walkability Plan – Activate Scottville:

    Team | Sebastian Bies, Freddy Horta, Gauri Mhatre, Kole Nicholoff, Isha Pithwa

    Scottville is looking to improve walkability for school children and other residents. Additionally, it is looking to address issues such as excessive public parking and a lack of amenities in its food truck area. These issues contribute to an unlively downtown area. This project examines these issues by completing a socioeconomic profile and infrastructural inventory that helps identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the city. The findings support two primary proposals, the Walkable Scottville Plan and the Clowntown Scottville Plan. Together, these plans provide recommendations for initiatives needed to improve walkability and downtown liveliness in Scottville.

    Muskegon Pine Street Business District Improvement Plan:

    Team | Ahmad Behzad, Shuangshuang Fu, Alex Johnson, Rashane Thapa, Faith Vignola

    This project addresses the need for new and enhanced non-motorized transportation facilities in Garfield Township, MI. The group, through a collaborative effort between students and the township planners, has been able to address the non-motorized circularity opportunities in the township. Ideally, through these efforts, non-motorized infrastructure connections in the township will expand, providing a multitude of benefits to the residents therein.

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