Session Descriptions

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Empowering Young Entrepreneurs

Through hands-on activities, we share best practices and ways to spark the entrepreneurial pipeline in your community. Explore ways to engage youth, allowing them to dream big and place value on a community where they could live, work, and play one day. We will discuss how young people can explore entrepreneurship as a career option and develop an entrepreneurial mind-set. Curriculum, resources, and innovative programs involving youth in business creation will be shared.

Presenter: Kathy Jamieson

Have Your Cake and Eat It Too: Local Food as an Economic Driver

Good food entrepreneurs build local character and economic vitality. The first part of the presentation will outline entrepreneur’s contributions to economic development, with a focus on downtown development, young talent attraction and regional tourism. Then, the focus will shift to the systems level. The opportunity of branding a locality with a food identity will be discussed, using Grand Rapids beer city as a case study. Attendees will leave with an understanding of how and why to support the food system.

Presenter: Parker Jones

Business Plan Competitions and Their Evolution of Momentum For Communities

This session with go over the implementation and changes that the local business plan competition has gone through the last five years. Gain insight into the struggles, success and impact that an event like this can have on your community.

Presenter: Tom Hinman

Impact of Business Plan Competitions: winners and runners up (Panel Discussion)

This Panel Discussion will have winners and top five finalists, dive in deep in the impact business plan competitions have had on their businesses and community.  See how just the impact of going through the process helps strengthen a communities businesses and people.

Presenter: Tom Hinman

Housing Strategy to Attract Development in Rural Communities (Panel)

A panel of experts will outline the strategies Mason County has implemented to attract developers to their rural community and share a Developer’s Toolkit that serves as an attraction piece with the audience. The panel will also identify what workforce housing programs that have been effective in their community. Finally, the panel will address how to engage the philanthropic investor in your community.

Panel: Monica Schuyler, Executive Director, Pennies From Heaven Foundation; Jamie Healy, Executive Director, Mason County Habitat for Humanity; Heather Tykoski, Community Development Director, City of Ludington

Moderator: Kathy McClain, Former CEO/President, Chamber of Commerce

Good Governance

If You Build It, They will Come:  Understanding Local Property Taxes to Grow Tour Business

Michigan’s property tax process is complex but knowing some of its intrinsic components may potentially reduce your taxes.  Participants will learn the meaning of Tax Day and how property is valued.  We will also discuss whether or not your business qualifies for tax exemptions as well as the difference in tax liability of new construction versus building rehabilitation.  Participants will also learn the top five things to never do regarding their business property taxes.

Presenter: Dave Rowley

Land Use

Opportunity Zones: There is No Place Like Home!

No, you are not in Kansas. Opportunity Zones (OZ) are a new national economic development tool intended to spur economic development and job creation in distressed communities. Not all Michigan communities have a state-designated OZ though. Join this session to learn what they are and how they work, whether your community has one, what the potential impacts on your community might be, and how to create a vision for your OZ and market to potential investors.

Presenter: Brad Neumann

Streamlining the Zoning Ordinance for Entrepreneurial Growth

This will be an interactive presentation that will provide tips for streamlining your zoning ordinance using clear and non-redundant ordinance organization, effective use of charts and illustrations, and technology tools to improve access and navigability. The zoning ordinance is one of the most important documents prepared by municipal officials because it determines where development can occur in your community. A streamlined zoning ordinance helps communities to be development and redevelopment ready.

Presenter: Crystal Wilson

Supporting Entrepreneurs with Temporary Zoning: Food Trucks, Pop-Up Shops, and Seasonal Businesses

Entrepreneurs often need a place and time to test an idea or product for a week, month, or season but communities often lack ordinances to support temporary commercial land use. Permits for commercial uses typically involve permanent structures and spaces, but do they have to?  Where do temporary uses fit and are they fair to the established businesses in a downtown? This session will explore policies, codes, and ordinances addressing temporary uses so communities can foster this innovation that can help launch new businesses.

Presenter: Mary Reilly


Leadership & Civic Engagement

Building Partnerships & Networks with Tribal Nations and Government Entities

This session will share strategies of how to build sustainable relationships with Michigan Tribal Nations and entrepreneurs in your community and how to leverage these relationships for business development. Learn more about the variety of resources and networks to connect with Tribal Economic Development.

Presenter: Emily Proctor

Communicating through Conflict

Conflict is common throughout our lives, especially in our businesses, communities, and families. The differing ideas that lead to conflict can often be harnessed to improve our lives if they are approached in the right way. Participants will learn a new method to manage conflict that can help save time, money, and energy.

Presenter: Lindsey Gardner




Capturing Visitor “First Impressions” to Strengthen Community Vitality

Have you ever considered capturing the perspectives of first-time visitors to your community? Have you considered their perspectives might be the catalyst to spawn leadership, action, and growth? First Impressions: Tourism Assessments (FIT) helps communities learn about their strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of first-time visitors. This session will dive into the FIT program and process providing participants experiential learning opportunity to share and capture their perspectives of Ludington, MI using components of the FIT assessment tool. Results will be shared with Ludington in early 2020.

Presenter: Andy Northrop

Community Branding for Economic Development & Tourism

Using the ongoing countywide branding process in Baraga County as a case study, Will will cover:

  1. Community branding and marketing defined
  2. Community branding vs. private sector branding
  3. How research supports and explains why branding is increasingly vital for communities
  4. A process for creating a community branding RFP including skills needed for a branding and marketing firm
  5. Data needs and possible sources
  6. Creating a brand tree and understanding your community’s specific needs

Presenter: Will Cronin

Human Centered Leadership: Our Community Listens

Using the ongoing countywide branding process in Baraga County as a case study, Will will cover:

  1. Community branding and marketing defined
  2. Community branding vs. private sector branding
  3. How research supports and explains why branding is increasingly vital for communities
  4. A process for creating a community branding RFP including skills needed for a branding and marketing firm
  5. Data needs and possible sources

Creating a brand tree and understanding your community’s specific needs

Crisis in leadership:  88% of employees feel like their company does not value them.  This session is an overview of a leadership training offered through BWLI (Barry-Wehmiller Leadership Institute) called Our Community Listens.  The presentation will provide an overview of Human Centered Leadership and provide the participants with a few valuable tools to take back to their organization to implement immediately.  It has been proven effective at creating an environment where employees feel motivated, valued and recognized.

Presenter: J&K Trotter

How the Shared Services Model and Collaboration Can Help Your Community Succeed

The Ludington & Scottsville Area Chamber of Commerce has worked within the shared service model for many years. The Economic Development Coordinator Chamber of Commerce, and Convention and Visitors Bureau and are housed under one roof with a shared staff. Another model of shared services, the Lakeshore Resource Network (LRN) with a shared services model for Health and Human Resources organizations, will also be discussed. The LRN houses 15 organizations who share space as well as administrative staff. The session will explore how staff function when serving multiple organization and how this model has benefited the non-profits in those communities.

Presenter: Brandy Miller

MEDC – MI Main Street

What is grubstake? Why local investing supports small business in your community and how to leverage it

Investing in your own backyard seems like a no-brainer to most. Learn more about local investing and how recent changes in state and federal law now allow for community members to invest directly in local businesses. Get an overview of the MILE act and why it’s important as well as how local investing can be used to raise capital for new and expanding entrepreneurs.

Presenter: Angela Barbash

Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Your community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem supports the launch, growth, and expansion of entrepreneurs within downtown. This session will provide an overview on how Michigan Main Street is assessing local ecosystems and what types of programming can be developed based on gaps within the system. Hear how two Michigan Main Street communities are using their assessment to build a more robust ecosystem.

Presenters: Suzanne Perreault, Rae Gosling, Josh Adams

Business Recruitment Test

New businesses often inquire about how to start up in your downtown, are you ready with the information they’re looking for? Do you know what information is needed to develop a proactive business recruitment strategy for your downtown? Session attendees will receive an overview of Michigan Main Street’s Technical Assistance Service – the Business Recruitment Test.  Hear some of the “pre-service” work that can be tackled along with lessons learned from Charlevoix Main Street, who went through the Business Recruitment Test.

Presenters: Dana Kollewehr and Lindsey Dotson

Why B Corps are Good for MI

“B Corp” is short for “benefit corporation,” which is a designation earned by companies that are focused on environmental and social change in addition to monetary profits (the triple bottom line). Learn more about the impact of B Corps, Good for Michigan, and why it matters.  Attendees will also learn how you can spread awareness on B Corps in your community.

Presenter: Elissa Sangali Hillary

Michigan Main Street (MMS) 101

Comprehensive downtown management plays a significant role in sustainable and vibrant downtown districts. Over the last 16 years, the Michigan Main Street program has been assisting communities in implementing the Main Street Approach through training, education, and technical assistance.  Learn how your community can engage with the Michigan Main Street program, what services are offered, how Main Street and RRC build success together, and the value that Main Street brings to downtown revitalization efforts.

Presenters: Dana Kollewehr and Suzanne Perreault

Empty Storefronts

Developing an Empty Storefront Action Plan

Empty storefronts are a threat to the vitality of every city. This session will provide a basic understanding of the lifecycle of a storefront vacancy and practical methods for identifying and recruiting replacement tenants. Through back-of-the-envelope market research and a review of best practices for different types of vacancies, you will learn how the public- and private-sector can work together to achieve sustainable commerce and support the community’s needs. Come with an empty storefront in mind and we will create an actionable strategy for positive change!

Presenter: David Mangum

Jackson Anchor Initiative – Transforming Jackson’s Downtown

The Anchor Initiative is Jackson Michigan’s private sector effort focused on transforming its downtown; and, in doing so, making the entire community a more vibrant and valued place to live, learn and work. The downtown is both the geographic and economic center of this metropolitan area and improvements to this core will resonate through the entire community. The Anchor Initiative has been the leading advocate for filling the downtown’s empty storefronts through research, recruitment and investment into the public realm. Learn the strategy they developed for transforming downtown Jackson and the results of their targeted approach.

Presenter: Jacob Hurt

CMU Research Corporation SmartZone – Innovative Business Incubation

The Central Michigan University Research Corporation (CMURC) is leading the charge in developing Mt. Pleasant’s SmartZone and supporting the community’s future business leaders. As a business accelerator, CMURC focuses on connecting resources from universities and private enterprise, assisting companies and entrepreneurs in building business structures around technology, conducting product development and helping companies secure necessary start up financing. The SmartZone provides the environment for where technology-based firms, entrepreneurs and researchers locate in close proximity to all of the community assets that assist in their endeavors. Through their newly developed master plan, CMURC aims to transform the SmartZone into a sustainable community of research, commerce and innovation. Learn how Michigan SmartZones can help business grow and the innovative ways CMURC is generating activity and fostering community in an emerging business environment.

Presenter: Erin Strang


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